As it fights a war against Russia it did not provoke, Ukraine earned a symbolic victory, winning the annual Eurovision Song Contest.
The Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra took home the top prize Saturday night as the 66th edition of the wildly popular music contest came to a close.
The folk-rap group that mixes traditional Ukrainian rhythms with contemporary hip hop went into the glitz-and-glam grand finale of the festival — held in Turin, Italy this year — as a heavy favorite to win.
The U.K.’s Sam Ryder, a TikTok superstar who gained popularity during the country’s first COVID lockdown in 2020, finished second, the nation’s highest position in 20 years.
Kalush Orchestra’s song, “Stefania,” was originally written as a tribute to the mother of lead singer Oleh Psiuk, but it turned into an anthem of resilience, amid Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine.
“I’ll always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed,” Psiuk sang, as one of the 25 countries competing in the grand finale.
As it happens
Get updates on the coronavirus pandemic and other news as it happens with our free breaking news email alerts.
Votes from the public account for 50% of the final score, and Psiuk used his time on stage to plead his case.
“Please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal right now,” he said from the stage after the band finished playing.
Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shared a video on Twitter saying that a victory would be symbolic for Ukraine winning the war.
“Europe, vote for Kalush Orchestra. Let’s support our fellow countrymen! Let’s support Ukraine!” he said.
The six members of the group, all male, had to receive special permission to leave their country, and they are supposed to fly back as soon as the glitter is settled.
Twenty bands were chosen by singing in two semifinals this week. They joined Italy, Britain, France, Germany and Spain, who automatically perform in the finale, due to their financial support of the event.
In February, organizers announced that Russia would, “in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine.”