The six members of Ukrainian rap-folk band Kalush Orchestra took their win at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest as a morale-boosting show of international support for their war-ravaged country, which Russia invaded Feb. 24. “They want to destroy our culture,” band founder/lead singer Oleh Psiuk, 28, tells Billboard on Zoom through a translator. “We came to Eurovision to show everybody that our culture exists. That our music is alive.”
Kalush Orchestra’s victory on May 14 in Turin, Italy — where a Eurovision record 438 points from the public for its song “Stefania” helped beat 24 other finalists — also aided the war effort in more practical ways. The group auctioned off the crystal microphone trophy it collected in Italy and the pink bucket hat that Psiuk wore onstage, raising $900,000, which will be used to buy aerial drones for the Ukrainian military. “We are doing whatever is possible to help,” says Psiuk, speaking from Berlin two days after performing at a charity concert at Brandenburg Gate.
Before that Berlin show, Kalush Orchestra had returned to Lviv, where the sound of explosions has become a regular occurrence — and where Kharkiv-born photographer Sasha Maslov shot these images for Billboard.
“There is a constant feeling of stress and anxiety because there are constant air alarms, and you do not know which house will be hit by a bomb or a missile,” says Psiuk, who lives in Kalush, a city in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, from which the group took its name.
Read Billboard’s full interview with Kalush Orchestra here, and find all the photos of the band below.