All eyes are on Ukraine as Eurovision approaches, with the country widely expected to win the song contest for the third time.
The country has a remarkable history at Eurovision. They competed in the contest for the first time in 2003, and they’ve managed to take the trophy home twice since then.
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra sailed through the first semi-final on Tuesday night (10 May), and Eurovision fans think they’ve got the contest in the bag. The bookies odds are looking good too – it’s widely believed that Europe will row in strongly behind Ukraine to show their support for the country as Russia’s inhumane war continues.
With Ukraine likely to win Eurovision yet again, we take a look back at all the times the country understood the assignment and smashed it out of the park at Eurovision.
1. Ruslana – ‘Wild Dances’ (2004)
How could anyone forget Ukraine’s first victory at Eurovision?
In their second year competing in the song contest, the country sent Ruslana with the song “Wild Dances”, and she blew audiences away.
Ruslana served just the right amount of folksy camp to win the hearts of Europe with “Wild Dances”. Ukraine walked away with 280 points, and the song instantly became a part of Eurovision history.
2. Verka Serduchka – ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai’ (2007)
Ukraine really said “gay rights” when they sent drag artist Andriy Danylko, better known by the stage name Verka Serduchka, to Eurovision in 2007 with the song “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”.
It’s safe to say the song has aged well – it initially caused some controversy as the phrase “lasha tumbai” sounded something like “Russia goodbye”. Verka claimed it was actually a Mongolian expression for “whipped cream”, but that was subsequently denied by a number of Mongols.
The controversy didn’t stop Verka from smashing it – she came in second place, and the song is well remembered today among Eurovision fans.
3. Ani Lorak – ‘Shady Lady’ (2008)
Ukraine managed to do it again just one year later when Ani Lorak finished in second place with the instantly iconic “Shady Lady”.
Lorak gave the gays everything they wanted with this track – 14 years on, it still sounds and looks like the perfect Eurovision song. It’s a total diva anthem, and it’s not hard to see why Lorak is still so widely loved in Ukraine all the years later.
We still think Lorak deserved to win with this track, and we’ll be forever sorry she missed out on the top spot to Russia.
4. Mika Newton – ‘Angel’ (2011)
Mike Newton finished in fourth place in 2011 with a performance that incorporated sand art, because this is Eurovision we’re talking about, and anything is possible.
Mika Newton showed off her powerful vocals while Kseniya Simonova created beautiful, engaging sand art in the background.
It’s definitely one of the more left-field performance tricks we’ve seen on the Eurovision stage, but it paid off for Ukraine, bagging them another top five placing.
5. Zlata Ognevich – ‘Gravity’ (2013)
Ukraine’s 2013 Eurovision was theatrical, dramatic, and it gave singer Zlata Ognevich the chance to show off her impressive high belt. In short, it was everything we could ever want or need from a Eurovision song.
Zlata basically brought the perfect blend of musical theatre and pop music to the Eurovision stage, and it went down a treat.
She finished in third place, and deservedly so.
6. Jamala – ‘1944’ (2016)
Ukraine have proven time and time again that they’re more than capable of bringing their A-game when it comes to Eurovision, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when they won for the second time in 2016.
Jamala was named the winner for her rousing performance of the song “1944”, which touches on the cultural genocide of the Crimean Tatars at the hands of the Soviet Union in the 1940s. Eurovision may be known for campy excess, but Jamala proved that songs touching on real-world issues and historical injustices can also resonate with viewers at home.
With Jamala’s 2016 win, Ukraine became the first Eastern European country to win Eurovision twice.
7. Go_A – ‘Shum’ (2021)
Electro folk band Go_A instantly captured Eurovision fans in 2021 when they performed their song “Shum”.
The song is inspired by the folklore of Northern Ukraine and incorporates elements of Ukrainian folk songs that were sung in the “Shum” folk ritual.
The song proved a huge success, and if finished in fifth place at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. Once again, Ukraine proved that it had cracked the code to Eurovision success, bringing elements of their own culture and history into the mix.