Why Eurovision 2023 just hit differently as Russia continues to wage war on Ukraine

As the glitter subsides in the streets of Liverpool, the bills roll in and the self congratulatory social media posts start to wane, it's time to wonder why this year's Eurovision just hit differently, writes Nicola Adam

Tvorchi of Ukraine appears on stage during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2023 (Image: Getty)Tvorchi of Ukraine appears on stage during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2023 (Image: Getty)
Tvorchi of Ukraine appears on stage during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2023 (Image: Getty)

Since 1956, the Eurovision song contest has been the great British guilty secret, acknowledged to be as cheesy as Wotsits and divisive as Marmite, celebrated firmly with tongue in cheek alongside a side order of a bit naff and a main course of joyous excuse to party in full technicolour. It's not about the musical act, we've got used to little success on that front as a rule, yet Sam Ryder's second place last year gave Great Britain a chance to show off, to celebrate its support and generosity toward Ukraine.

The stakes were high and the choice of Liverpool as a venue undeniably inspired; the event itself a strange mix of celebration, traditional British sarcasm and a side order of not so quiet virtue signalling - not that it made anyone vote for us. Through a British lens it was simply a remarkably ambitious and decidedly successful event (if we ignore our second to last place) yet it meant so much more through Ukrainian eyes.

I spent the evening witnessing just that impact as I was invited to my Ukrainian neighbours' home to watch the show. More than a year since the war began, they have been switched into high gear. Despite being resident in the UK for more than 20 years, the loyalty to their home country is remarkable and underpinned by guilt and frustration that they alone are safe while their families are not.

So they have been fighting the war from rural Lancashire. In the past year our shared drive has been a storage spot for dozens of four wheel drive vehicles, fund-raised for and bought to send across and used for mounting machine guns; sometimes days after arrival at the border they are bombed out immediately - I've seen the video.

Meanwhile, my garage, volunteered for transit storage, is frequently packed with combat medical supplies - in the early days it was bulletproof vests, hard-soled boots and heartbreakingly, baby food. They have rescued friends and family from the Polish-Ukraine border, known dozens who have lost their lives, and helped hundreds of their displaced citizens, helping with paperwork, schools and even hosting themselves.

Eurovision, with its bucketloads of glitter and dozens of British celebrities trying to make a name for themselves, seems trivial in comparison to the time grandma - in her eighties and with two hip replacements - watched a bomb land in front of her window and fled to the Polish border on foot, requiring a full rescue operation.

Yet there was nothing trivial about it for them. I was greeted by them in their traditional(ish) Ukrainian garb, with a glass of champagne and tears of happiness before the show began. It emerged they had attended the dress rehearsal several days earlier, and had just that day driven to Liverpool to soak up the atmosphere with their fellow Ukrainians.

They are genuinely grateful to the UK and proud of their country. As Ukrainian names and symbolism popped up on telly they explained it all with great pride; even half-Polish comedian Mel Giedroyc's antics with the phallic milk churner greeted with tears of laughter. 'My grandma does exactly that!' They were astonished at the appearance of Catherine, Princess of Wales, beyond honoured their country and its troubles should be given the royal treatment.

As the show ended, I was thanked, repeatedly and emotionally as if I personally had staged the biggest ever Eurovision just for them. And they genuinely meant it - for them the Eurovision song contest was not just a party but a political gesture as powerful as the provision of weapons and international sanctions. With its glorious excess, millions of viewers and cultural exposure, we have just awarded Russia nul points.