Eurovision is being held in Great Britain this year, organized on behalf of last year’s winner Ukraine, but still it has retained a distinctly Ukrainian flavor. The song contest is entirely dedicated to Ukrainian culture and its history. The slogan of the 2023 edition is "United by Music" and the logo is a series of hearts with a heavy use of very familiar yellow and blue shades in the palate.
All around the English city of Liverpool, where the extravaganza is being held, installations about Ukraine abound.
The attention of all of Europe is focused on the competition. Thousands of fans are traveling from across the continent to see it in person, and the spectacle is expected to be watched by 160 million people worldwide. Ukrainians are expected to be tuning in en masse, although locally it will not be possible to gather in bars or other places because of the curfew.
Vladyslav Semenchenko, president of the official Eurovision fan club Ogae Ukraine, told Kyiv Post that this year they plan to watch the contest together, but only a very narrow circle of the fan club.
"It is difficult to find a place where you can stay for the night and invite a large number of people. If it weren't for the curfew, we would 100% have a meeting for everyone," Semenchenko said.
Instead, he and and a group of other members will watch Eurovision 2023 together in a cottage they booked in advance.
Last year, the Ukrainian band Kalush won first place in the hugely popular musical festival, granting their country the opportunity to host it in 2023. However, due to the imposition of martial law and the constant Russian shelling in Ukraine, organizers of the show were forced to choose a safer country for the competition.
By the way, this is not the first time that the British have organized the contest on behalf of the winning nation. For example, in 1971, Monaco declined to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest due to a lack of venue for the show there. Britain came to the rescue. In 1974, the U.K. was lucky again, because after winning two years in a row, Luxembourg decided to pass the baton on to others.
At Eurovision 2022, the U.K. took second place and so the show’s organizers decided it should be held here.
This year, Ukrainian band Tvorchi will perform from Ukraine with the song, “Heart of Steel”. Band member Andryy Hutsulyak said that the song is dedicated to the outmanned and outgunned patriots who bravely defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for 80 days before it was ultimately destroyed by the Russians.
"I couldn't imagine how difficult it was for them there. It felt like it was the end, but in their eyes, I could see fire, willpower, and determination. It gave me goosebumps. I wrote this song under these emotions," Hutsulyak admitted. He said he believes all Ukrainians have “hearts of steel,” and became an example for the world of fighting evil for peace.
Nazar Kazakov, who is currently studying in Poland, also calls himself a Eurofan. He watches the competition every year and has plans to do so this year as well.
"Eurovision is quite popular in Poland, so many bars have already announced the broadcast of the contest on the day of the final," he wrote to Kyiv Post.
"I'm also a huge Eurovision fan, I've been watching since the victory of Ukrainian singer Ruslana in 2004. That's why I would watch it even if Ukraine didn't participate," another Kyiv Post reader, Valeriia Kharchenko, shared.
She has already identified Ireland and Sweden as her favorites, although he does not like to watch the performances of the participants before Eurovision: to have the effect of unexpectedness.
Kharchenko considers Eurovision to be an important event because it is an opportunity to describe daily life in Ukraine. "It's very important to emphasize the problems we have in the war. And to show once again that, despite everything, cultural and creative life continues," she wrote.
Helga Stakhmych, who left the country because of the war, is attending the Eurovision Song Contest in person. She tells Kyiv Post that Britain has prepared well for the competition. Its producers have tried to involve the maximum number of Ukrainians in the preparation of the show, she noted.
"After all, this is an important Eurovision Song Contest for Ukraine. This is an opportunity to convey the necessary messages about Ukraine to the British."
Although Ukrainians are less likely to discuss Eurovision on social media this year, there is no reason to believe that they are not interested in the contest.
"There is an opinion that Eurovision is something unimportant and of no interest to anyone. But everyone watches it and discusses it," the club leader Semenchenko suggested. He agreed, however, that compared to some other European countries, there is indeed lower interest in the competition in Ukraine this year.
The band members of Tvorchi commented to Kyiv Post that they could not accurately assess Ukrainian interest in this year's Eurovision, but are confident that many Ukrainians still will follow the competition and tune in.
“Music unites us all and makes us stronger," they said.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter