In Ukraine, last year’s winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, war continues to rage more than a year after Russia’s full-scale invasion. Ukrainians monitor reports of destroyed Russian equipment, follow daily movement at the front line and heed alerts of incoming strikes.
But on Saturday, for some, Eurovision offered a diversion from the battlefield.
At Ponchyk Boy cafe, which means Doughnut Boy, bakers dedicated a special treat to Eurovision: one with Bailey’s topped with strawberry yogurt and fresh strawberry pieces.
“Many people got our doughnuts to go today and said they are buying them to watch Eurovision,” said Yaroslav Koshovyi, 26, the cafe manager. “We are a very bright cafe so our doughnuts suit Eurovision.”
At 6 p.m., Eurovision fans gathered at the bar Squat 17b for an early night out, with the first applause of the evening going to the Ukrainian Army. Kyiv’s curfew starts at midnight and the bar is closing at 8:30 p.m. to allow people to get home.
At one table, a group of friends sang along to Eurovision songs.
“It’s a piece of happiness,” said Olha Tarasenko, 24. “I remember last year when I evacuated to Poland, we went with friends to one Polish gay bar to watch Eurovision, and when Ukraine won, I was crying, and felt like everything is possible.”
Few in Ukraine expect to win this year.
“We probably will not win this year, but we are good at cheering and hoping,” said Anastasia Telikova, 32, a photographer and volunteer, who was resting in a downtown Kyiv park with a soldier friend.
After the park, she planned to go a club to watch the start before heading home to watch with friends.
“With all the pain and loss, if there is a possibility to get together with people you are close to, it’s worth doing,” she said.
Last year, when Ukraine won, “people were smiling, despite a lot of danger and uncertainty around us,” she said. “We are ready to hold onto any possible symbol now that can give hope.”