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Ukraine’s victory in 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 the Ukrainian army with drones.
The Kalush Orchestra, the Ukrainian band that won Eurovision after sweeping the popular vote by telephone, has put its trophy and pink bucket hat that its lead singer wore during the competition for auction, and the items fetched more than $1.2 million, A spokeswoman for the squad said in a statement on Monday.
“We believe this is only the first victory before our biggest victory over the Russian aggressor,” the band’s lead singer Ole Bisik said in a telegram.
Maria Pisarenko, a spokeswoman for the foundation, said the money would go to the Serhiy Pretola Charitable Foundation, an organization founded by a Ukrainian TV presenter, and would be used to buy three drones that the military could use for surveillance.
The trophy, a handcrafted glass microphone designed by Swedish artist Kjell Engmann, was sold at a cryptocurrency auction, Mrs. Pisarenko said.
WhiteBIT, a cryptocurrency exchange originally from Ukraine, took the trophy Sunday for $900,000 after competing bids in the last minutes of the auction from businessmen from Kaloch – the Ukrainian city of Mr. Psiuk’s home – and a Washington charitable trust.
“It’s a big amount, but we understand the target is much bigger,” said Margarita Polopan, a WhiteBIT spokeswoman, adding that her company had worked to provide and coordinate support for Ukraine since the start of the war.
The bucket hat winner “with ole sweat and tears,” as Mr. Bertola described it, was chosen at random in a separate raffle, with each ticket costing 200 Ukrainian hryvnia, or less than $7. More than 30 thousand people participated and raised more than 300 thousand dollars.
The award was won by Volodymyr Onychuk, a Ukrainian IT engineer who lives in the Czech Republic and is a regular donor to Mr. Bertola’s charity. He said in a phone interview that he bought several tickets because he thought it was a “cool case,” adding that he plans to take a “Facebook photo” with the hat before donating it to a museum in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, or in Kalush.
After its victory at Eurovision, the Kalush Orchestra urged its fans to show support by making a donation to help the Ukrainian army. “Every euro you donate will help save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers!” The band wrote in an Instagram post to promote the auction.
Eurovision rules state that it is a “non-political event”, but the competition has not really been isolated from world politics.
The winning song “Stefania” was written for the Kalush Orchestra to honor Mr. Psiuk’s mother. While it does not contain explicitly political words, it has been reinterpreted as a patriotic anthem to Ukraine as its motherland.
After the competition ended, the band released a music video for Stefania showing wrecked buildings and female soldiers carrying children amidst the rubble, an apparent reference to war. It was viewed nearly 20 million times.
“If Stefania was now our war anthem, I would like it to become our victory anthem,” Mr. Psiuk wrote in the video caption.
John Ismay Contribute to the preparation of reports.
May 31, 2022
An earlier version of this article misspelled the title of a WhiteBIT spokeswoman. It’s a Populan Margherita, not a Populan.