The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK has paid tribute to the “uniqueness” of Liverpool and how the city has embraced his country in hosting Eurovision.
Tomorrow marks the grand final of the 67th European song contest which Liverpool has stepped into hold on behalf of Ukraine. Events have taken place right across the city and the wider region to celebrate the competition but the host nation has been denied the opportunity as conflict continues.
Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, said given Liverpool’s warm embrace of his country throughout this month, it was only right that they return the favour when the war is over and it can host the contest again.
Mr Prystaiko paid a visit to St Nicholas Catholic Primary School today alongside incoming leader of Liverpool Council, Liam Robinson, and Alisa Lialina, First Secretary of the Ukrainian Embassy, to see how the youngsters have got into the Eurovision spirit. The delegation were treated to a special dance performance, before the Ambassador spoke to a Ukrainian pupil who had resettled in the city.
Speaking to the LDRS, Mr Prystaiko paid tribute to how Liverpool had put Ukraine at the heart of celebrations. He said, “Seeing so many people coming with Ukrainian flags, people are not putting them there because they’re being told to by a Mayor or Prime Minister, but because it’s genuine eagerness to support and show support.
“People in Ukraine will see it and be happy it’s done in such a way that it feels like it’s back in Ukraine. They will need to get it back and next time the UK wins, hand over the celebration to us and we’ll have the next one in Ukraine and invite everyone.
“It will be a great celebration in Ukraine as well.” During the bidding process for Eurovision, Gennadiy Trukhanov, the Mayor of Odesa – twinned with Liverpool – came out in support of the city. Mr Prystiako, who is also from Odesa, admitted he too was backing Liverpool to land the honour on behalf of his homeland.
He said, “The uniqueness of Liverpool, its music culture and rich history, it’s something we love. When it was the conversation about which city would win, I personally expected Liverpool to win.”
Ahead of tomorrow night’s grand final, it was confirmed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would not be allowed to address the event amid fears it may politicise the competition. The Ambassador said he understood the decision taken by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) but felt it wouldn’t sway the mood of the competition judges.
He said, “I get the message from the EBU who is making the decision. The message from President Zelenskyy was about the decision to take it from Ukraine and we have to explain why this happened.
“It was a great chance to address the fans and explain to them, thank them for supporting and his message was it’s so Ukrainian, we’re so happy to have it and we’d be even happier to have it back home so let’s finish the work and get to normal, usual life. I don’t believe it would influence the decision of the judges or the jury, I guess it can be done afterwards if it is so strict with the rules.”
Cllr Robinson, who will be confirmed as the next leader of Liverpool Council when it meets for its annual general meeting next week, joined the ambassadorial delegation and said the city had raised expectations for future song contests and set lofty ambitions. He said: “It’s absolutely brilliant, I think the whole opportunity of Eurovision has been absolutely fantastic.
“It’s really special we’re doing this for the people of Ukraine and the fact we’ve been able to welcome the Ukrainian ambassador and actually show, it’s not just three hours of musical television on a Saturday night, this is 10 days of a music and cultural festival at the heart of the city. The city of Liverpool has raised the bar for Eurovision and so if the UK can win on Saturday night, hopefully we can host it again next year.”
Image: Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko with children at St Nicholas Catholic Primary in Liverpool