At 18, we welcome back a country that never fails to put in a noteworthy entry, whether it be for spectacle, campness, staging, you name it. Sadly due to the ongoing crisis in the east of the country they were unable to enter last year, but they are back, with an entry that has already generated news articles across Europe – welcome back Ukraine!
Jamala succeeded in winning at the Ukrainian national final (she won a few years ago but for unclear reasons was denied chance to represent Ukraine) and she’s also succeeded in having her song approved for Eurovision as there had been talk that it would be considered too political. Why? Well, the song is about the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars, the native people of Crimea, by Stalin to Siberia and other far flung parts of the Soviet Union in 1944. Almost 200,000 people were deported, and many thousands died in the process. Most were never to return to their homeland.
Jamala herself is of Crimean Tatar heritage and was born in what is now Kyrgyzstan as her ancestors had been sent there in those 1944 deportations. Her family returned to their ancestral home of the Crimea Peninsula when Ukraine became independent in 1991, as did many Crimean Tatars. You won’t need me to tell you that the situation has once again changed in that region, with Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, which is not accepted by either Ukraine or much of the international community. Jamala has not been back to Crimea since the annexation; life it seems is once again tough for the Crimean Tatars, making this song especially resonant.
The song is, understandably, raw with emotion but I think it makes for quite a remarkable performance. It’s a Marmite song no question, but you can’t deny it’s got people talking. Ukraine have been very successful at Eurovision. Following Ruslana’s win in 2004, they’ve come in the top 10 a further seven times, and have always qualified comfortably for the final. I think we’ll be seeing Ukraine back in the final this year with what might be a dark horse to win the whole contest.
Live at Eurovision in Concert in Amsterdam:
Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest:
First entered: 2003
Appearances (excluding this year): 12
Best result: Winner 2004
Last year’s result: Did not enter