Ukraine-Russia conflict: The life of the Ukrainian Eurovision winner Jamala is an echo of art


Six years ago, Ukrainian singer Jamala swept Europe with a song about Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s deportation of hundreds of thousands of people from their Black Sea homeland of Crimea during World War II.

“When strangers come, they come to your house. They kill you all and say ‘We’re not guilty,'” she sang in a somber anthem that surprisingly won the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest.

Now Jamala is a refugee herself, having fled Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, which pushed her and her children to seek refuge outside of Ukraine.

“On February 24, my husband woke me up and told me that the war had started and that Russia had attacked us. At that moment I was shocked. It felt like a nightmare,” she said Reuters in an interview in Istanbul.

The 38-year-old, whose real name is Susana Jamaladinova, took shelter in an air-raid shelter in Kyiv before fleeing to Turkey with her two children – leaving her husband behind to fight the approaching Russian army.

The road to safety was not easy, and she sang to her children to distract them from the danger.

“We were in the car and heard this bzzzz noise. We saw (a missile) ahead,” she said, describing her confusion over whether to proceed or turn back. “I was lost, but I had to keep going. It was scary.”

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

(Pictures of the Press Association)

Jamala, a Crimean Tatar whose relatives were victims of the 1944 deportations, called on Europeans to unite behind their country.

“It’s not just a Ukrainian war, it’s a war against European values,” she said. “I think we’re all in the same boat.”

She took that message to Berlin earlier this month, where she re-performed her 2016 song at a preliminary round of this year’s Eurovision – this time to campaign for support for the Ukrainian army. Russia, which describes its offensive in Ukraine as a “special military operation,” is in lockdown this year.

One of the favorites for the Eurovision final, which has a huge global television audience, is the Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine. Despite operating from the west of the country, which has been less affected by the three-week conflict, the band members have had to rehearse separately while taking on wartime duties.

Lead singer Oleh Psiuk leads a 20-strong volunteer group that delivers medicine and helps people flee the war. His girlfriend makes Molotov cocktails, and another band member serves in the Territorial Defense Unit.

For Jamala, who was initially hesitant to perform while her country was under fire, doubts disappeared as she began to sing, “It seems to me that now I can do just that. If I can sing and raise money to help Ukraine, I will continue to do so.”

Yesim Dikmen for Reuters

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https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/eurovision/jamala-ukraine-eurovision-russia-b2038869.html Ukraine-Russia conflict: The life of the Ukrainian Eurovision winner Jamala is an echo of art

Russell Falcon

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