The Kaluga Orchestra of Ukraine returned home after an emotional victory at Eurovision, which was welcomed on the border with Poland by the military and women whose affairs the band defended in Turin.
Frontman Oleg Psyuk was presented with a bouquet of yellow and blue flowers – the colors of the Ukrainian flag – and met with his girlfriend before he and his band launched an impromptu version of their winning song Stephanie.
On Saturday, they backed a wave of popular support to win the annual song festival in a city in northern Italy, giving their compatriots much-needed morale after nearly 12 weeks of war.
The Ukrainian military, who watched on television, welcomed the victory, and Psyuk asked for help at the end of a live performance for the blockade of Mariupol and its metallurgical plant “Azovstal”.
“Eurovision is a very important thing, especially this year. But the lives of so many people are much more important,” Psyuk said at the border.
The Kaluga orchestra plans to sell the Eurovision trophy to raise money for Ukraine’s military action.
Psyuk said he hopes to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“There are people who are just willing to donate. It’s just to motivate them even more – they can own this trophy. One might think it’s cool to have a statuette of the winner of Eurovision-2022 at home,” he said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky hurried to congratulate on Saturday, and residents of the town, which is named after the group – about three hours by car southeast of the village of Krakovets, where they returned to Ukraine – were delighted.
“I love my Kalush. My wife and I watched until the first hour of the night. And we were happy to win. I jumped. I was in seventh heaven,” said 74-year-old Kalush resident Peter Yugan on Sunday.
“But I also want us to end the war as soon as possible, and that would be an even bigger victory.”
Bookmakers have made the Kalush Orchestra a clear favorite among the 40 participants in the annual competition, thanks in part to widespread sympathy for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February.
Stefania, a tribute to the memory of Psyuk’s mother in Ukrainian, which combines rap with traditional folk music, took fourth place after the national jury vote, but broke into first place thanks to a record score in the second round of voting.