By Sarah Mills
LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) -Tvorchi, Ukraine’s electro pop-duo entry in Eurovision 2023, said they hoped to shine a spotlight on their country’s fight for freedom when they perform in the grand final in Liverpool on Saturday night.
Formed in 2018 by Ukrainian producer Andrii Hutsuliak and Nigerian-born singer Jeffery Kenny, the pair wrote their song “Heart of Steel” last spring when Ukraine’s soldiers were defending Mariupol.
“We wrote it from how we felt, we didn’t know we would apply to Eurovision,” Kenny said.
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra rode a huge wave of support from across Europe to win the contest last year, but the country was unable to stage the event this year, as the winner usually does, because of Russia’s invasion.
Liverpool, in northern England, stepped in to host instead.
Hutsuliak said Tvorchi would “show the world our message”.
“We’ll show how strong Ukrainians are,” he told Reuters. “We hope we can inspire people all around the planet to take a look at the Ukrainians who are fighting for their freedom, for their land, for their families.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosted a reception at 10 Downing Steet on Wednesday to mark the event, with guests invited to wear sparkly clothing. The British leaders’ residence was decorated with disco balls and Ukrainian flags.
Ukrainian singer Ruslana, who won the competition in 2004, performed for attendees, who included Ukrainian artists, Ukrainian refugees and Britain’s first Eurovision winner Sandie Shaw.
“It’s an honour for us to host Eurovision on behalf of our Ukrainian friends. It shows yet again that the British people will stand by them for as long as it takes,” Sunak said.
“As my friend (Ukrainian) President Zelenskyy says… one day this contest will be hosted in a victorious, free Ukraine. Now that will be a party to remember!”
Ukraine, as last year’s winner, gains automatic entry to Saturday’s grand final, along with the “big five,” comprising Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
Britain is represented by singer-songwriter Mae Muller with “I Wrote a Song”.
She said there was a strong sense of community among the 37 countries competing in Liverpool.
“It’s quite an empowering feeling to be a part of that, and especially this year with hosting on behalf of Ukraine,” she said. “It makes what is already a special occasion even more special.”
Tuesday’s first semi-final saw 10 acts qualify for the grand final, including early favourite, Sweden.
(Reporting by Sarah Mills, Writing by Paul Sandle and Kylie MacLellan;Editing by Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio)