Skip to main content

With Their Country Under Siege, Ukrainian Dance Music Duo Tvorchi Prepare For Eurovision

Missile strikes and electricity shutoffs have sent the artists from shelter to shelter and interrupted recordings and video shoots ahead of the May final

At the Eurovision 2023 Song Contest in May, 37 countries will participate, but only one nation is sending their act to the competition in Liverpool while their country is fighting a war. Tvorchi, the electronic music duo from Ukraine, has been recording and rehearsing while their homeland is under attack by forces commanded by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the weeks of early preparation and national competitions, the duo – producer Andrii (Andrew) Hutsuliak and vocalist Jimoh Augustus Kehinde (a.k.a. Jeffery Kenny) – ran from shelter to shelter to avoid unpredictable drone and missile strikes and weathered intermittent electricity outages. And while most countries vying for the Eurovision crown hold their national finals in theaters or arenas, Ukraine’s live broadcast for the 2023 contest took place in December at an underground metro station that has been used as a bomb shelter, with trains passing on both sides of the stage. 

“We didn’t imagine this might happen, that any minute you could be killed by missiles,” co-founder Hutsuliak tells Billboard via Zoom. “In the first week of war, we had a lot of emotions, and we transferred all those emotions into how we can help our country and how to be more productive.”


The war affected the participation of Tvorchi (“creative” in Ukrainian) in Ukraine’s national final to determine which song would go to Eurovision, forcing the duo to do some recordings in shelters “There are the times we just grab the equipment and to go to the shelter and wait for the air (sirens) to turn off,” he says. During Tvorchi’s preparations in Kyiv, one day they were shooting video when an alarm sounded signaling a drone strike and missile attack, recalls Hutsuliak. “We ran to the shelter and were sitting there for four hours.” 

With many power plants destroyed by Russian attacks, Ukrainian officials have conserved electricity by periodically shutting it off. “When you hear the alarm and the missiles strike, the electricity can go off,” says Hutsuliak. “We look for generators and big power banks where you can plug your laptop in there and charge your devices and go on.”

Since winning Ukraine’s national final, Tvorchi has focused on preparing its music and trying to tune out the dangerous conditions that threaten their lives. “We’re not physically participating in rehearsals yet,” says Hutsuliak. “We’re trying to get the music done as quickly as possible then we can move on to the choreography and trying out costumes and rehearsing for the show on stage.”

U.K. Steps Up To Host Despite Ukraine’s 2022 Eurovision Win

By tradition, the country that wins Eurovision hosts the competition the following year. In 2022, Ukraine won with The Kalush Orchestra’s “Stefania.” While Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said he wanted his country to host the 2023 contest, the European Broadcasting Union selected the U.K. as substitute host, deeming it too dangerous to have the annual event in Ukraine. 

“We are thankful that Britain is going to organize this and make it happen,” says Hutsuliak. The promos for the 2023 Eurovision will feature the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag inside the traditional heart-shaped logo, even though the competition is being held in the U.K.

Tvorchi and the delegation from Ukraine will have to travel from their besieged country to Liverpool, where the Eurovision final will be held on May 13 at the M&S Bank Arena. The duo has already been to London for a performance at the O2 Arena last fall, held to raise funds to buy military equipment for Ukraine.


While the country is under attack by air, there are no flights coming in or out of Ukrainian airports. “We can only travel by car or train,” says Hutsuliak. “Before Putin’s invasion, it took four or five hours to fly to London. [For the O2 performance] it took us 24 hours to get there. We traveled by car to the airport in Krakow, Poland and then we flew to Warsaw. Then we caught another plane to London.” 

Even in London, the electronic duo struggled to avoid the feeling of trauma. “You hear a plane flying overhead and you get scared or anxious for no reason,” says Hutsuliak. “But it was nice to meet Ukrainians who lived in our country before the invasion, and it is nice to interact with them. There are Ukrainian people who live in Berlin, in London, in Portugal and in Spain and we appreciated sharing emotions and being in the moment.”

Both members of Tvorchi say it is important to continue making music and appearing on a global platform such as Eurovision. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to spread our message as well as represent the country,” Kenny tells Billboard. “Ukrainians don’t want to be pitied,” adds Hutsuliak. “You need to look at us and get inspired, be united and help so we can help you tomorrow.”

The duo has raised money for the Ukranian army and urges others to donate money and equipment, and to stream music from Ukrainian artists. (Among the platforms receiving donations is one organized by President Zelensky, United24.)

Tvorchi’s song for Eurovision, “Heart of Steel,” was inspired by the siege of Azovstal in Mariupol when the Ukrainian army defended the steel and iron works there, holding out for 82 days under brutal conditions before finally surrendering in May. The lyrics are also a warning about nuclear warfare. Tvorchi is keenly aware that Eurovision was originally created to peacefully unite the nations of Europe several years after the end of World War II.

“Heart Of Steel” is not Tvorchi’s first song inspired by the conflict with Russia. In the first months after the invasion began, they wrote a song called “Boremosia” whose lyrics include: 

We fight and will win over everyone

the bullets are flying but we are strong

we fight, the worlds are divided

the voices for freedom have become as one

Last June, Tvorchi performed “Boremosia” for army soldiers in a camp, on a stage atop a big truck. “They opened the place where they usually store some ammunition,” says Hutsuliak “It was very valuable for us to be there to talk with the [soldiers] and support each other, to share the emotions and just be in the moment.”