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Ukraine’s Eurovision act arrives in Israel for joint tour, live show in Tel Aviv

Kalush Orchestra granted permission to leave country amid fighting, for promotional events including ‘Israel Calling,’ a 4-day tour culminating in a concert Thursday

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Ukraine's 2022 Eurovision act, "Kalush Orchestra." (Maxim Fesenko)
Ukraine's 2022 Eurovision act, "Kalush Orchestra." (Maxim Fesenko)

Kalush Orchestra, Ukraine’s entry to the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, arrived in Israel on Monday to participate in a four-day pre-Eurovision event alongside dozens of other competitors, the band’s first foreign appearance since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February.

The Ukrainian public broadcaster, Suspilne, and the Israeli public broadcaster Kan announced on Sunday that Kalush Orchestra would take part in “Israel Calling,” an annual event inviting Eurovision acts to visit Israel before the competition, set to culminate in a concert in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening.

The six members of the musical act received special permission to leave Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict, as men of military age are currently banned from exiting the country. Kalush Orchestra is considered a heavy favorite to win the 2022 song contest, shooting to the top of the betting odds charts following Russia’s invasion, reflecting the heavy geopolitical considerations that often dominate voting at the singing competition. Russia has been banned from participating in this year’s contest.

If Ukraine finishes first at the Eurovision competition in Turin, Italy, in May, it will win the right to host the 2023 contest. Israel most recently won in 2018, and hosted the 2019 competition in Tel Aviv.

“The band Kalush Orchestra, the representatives of Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest 2022, have decided that the best they can do for the country now is to support Ukraine with their performance and through communication with the European audience,” Suspilne wrote on Sunday.

“We want to show the world community Ukrainian music, our spirit and how unbreakable we are. We really need support in this difficult time,” the band said, according to the Ukrainian public broadcaster.

Kalush Orchestra will join more than 20 other Eurovision entrants for the “Israel Calling” event, which includes a several-day tour across Israel and a concert at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Members of the band will sit down with Ukrainian refugees in Jerusalem on Tuesday, and also meet with Ukraine-native Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, following a tour of Jerusalem organized by the ministry. The Ukrainian public broadcaster said that Kalush Orchestra will be collecting donations at the concert on Thursday to support the restoration of damaged infrastructure and property in Ukraine.

“We thank the organizers in Israel for the invitation and we look forward to meeting the community of Eurovision,” said Oleh Psiuk, the founder and frontman of Kalush Orchestra, in a statement from Suspilne. “This support that we feel is incredibly important for us and the entire country.”

Last month the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the competition, said it would exempt Kalush Orchestra from the requirement to record a live on-tape performance, and would allow it to submit an earlier recording if it was unable to make it in person to Turin.

On Saturday, members of the band gathered together and performed in Lviv, in western Ukraine, for the first time since Russia invaded. Psiuk noted that it was the first time they were able to rehearse and perform together in person in close to six weeks, and announced that the band would in fact be appearing live in Turin.

“At a time when the world’s attention is focused on Ukraine, our way to help is to tell about the war in Ukraine and to communicate with the European audience through our work,” the band wrote on Instagram. “Yes, we can officially declare! The Kalush Orchestra is going to Turin Eurovision 2022 to perform live.”

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