Eurovision winners auction off trophy to support Ukraine's army

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Eurovision winners auction off trophy to support Ukraine's army
Kalush Orchestra, from Ukraine, perform during Eurovision Song Contest finals in Turin, Italy, May 14, 2022. The Eurovision grand final is the climax of the world’s greatest, glitziest and campiest song contest, in which singers from around Europe go note-to-note as they compete for votes. Alessandro Grassani/The New York Times.

by Emma Bubola

NEW YORK, NY.- Ukraine’s victory at the Eurovision Song Contest brought national pride, joy and artistic prestige to the country amid the devastation of war. Now, it will also help supply drones to the Ukrainian army.

Kalush Orchestra, a Ukrainian band that won Eurovision after sweeping the phone-in popular vote, put up for auction its trophy and the pink bucket hat worn by its lead singer during the contest, and the items netted more than $1.2 million, the band’s spokesperson said in a statement Monday.

“We believe that this is only the first victory before our biggest victory over the Russian aggressor,” lead singer Oleh Psiuk said in a Telegram message.

The money is going to the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation, an organization founded by a Ukrainian TV presenter, and will be used to buy three drones that the army can use for surveillance, said Maria Pysarenko, a spokesperson for the foundation.

The trophy, a handmade glass microphone designed by Swedish artist Kjell Engman, was auctioned in cryptocurrency, Pysarenko said.

WhiteBIT, a cryptocurrency exchange platform originally from Ukraine, secured the trophy Sunday for $900,000 after competing bids in the last minutes of the auction from businessmen from Kalush — the Ukrainian city Psiuk is from — and a charity fund from Washington.

“It’s a big amount, but we understand that the aim is much bigger,” said Margarita Populan, a spokesperson at WhiteBIT, adding that her company had worked to provide and coordinate support for Ukraine since the beginning of the war.

The winner of the bucket hat “with the sweat and tears of Oleh,” as Prytula described it, was chosen at random in a separate raffle, where each ticket cost 200 Ukrainian hryvnia, or less than $7. More than 30,000 people participated, raising more than $300,000.

Volodymyr Onyshchuk, a Ukrainian information technology engineer living in the Czech Republic who is a regular donor to Prytula’s charity, won the prize. He said in a phone interview that he had bought several tickets because he thought it was “a cool situation,” adding that he planned to take a “picture for Facebook” with the hat before donating it to a museum in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, or in Kalush.

After winning Eurovision, Kalush Orchestra urged its fans to show support by donating to help the Ukrainian army. “Every euro you donate will help save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers!” the band wrote in an Instagram post promoting the auction.

Eurovision’s rules state that it is a “nonpolitical event,” but the competition has never been truly isolated from world politics.

Kalush Orchestra’s winning song, “Stefania,” was written to honor Psiuk’s mother. Although it does not have overtly political lyrics, it has been reinterpreted as a patriotic hymn to Ukraine as a motherland.

After the contest, the band released a music video for “Stefania” that shows wrecked buildings and women soldiers carrying children amid the rubble, in a clear reference to the war. It has been viewed nearly 20 million times.

“If ‘Stefania’ is now the anthem of our war,” Psiuk wrote in the video’s caption, “I would like it to become the anthem of our victory.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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