Meet Ukraine’s Eurovision contestants Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil

Duo are hoping to raise awareness and funds for a school in Ukraine that was destroyed by a Russian missile

Roisin O'Connor
Saturday 11 May 2024 08:14 BST
Olly Alexander addresses calls to boycott Eurovision as final approaches

In recent years, Ukraine has proved itself as a strong Eurovision contender, with a win for the country in 2022 thanks to Kalush Orchestra and their song “Stefania”.

This year, Ukraine is being represented at the Eurovision Song Contest by rapper Alyona Alyona and singer Jerry Heil, who have joined forces on the rousing anthem “Teresa & Maria”.

They will compete in the grand final in Malmo, Sweden, on Saturday 11 May, where they are up against delegates from Croatia (Baby Lasagna), Ireland (Bambie Thug), Italy (Angelina Mango) and the UK (Olly Alexander).

The duo, who qualified for the final in the first semi-final on Tuesday 9 May, are using their platform at Eurovision to raise money for the Velykokostromska School that was destroyed by a Russian missile in 2022, in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Alyona and Heil are currently one of the favourites to win the Eurovision Song Contest, with odds of 16/1 according to BetVictor. They will perform second on the night, after Sweden open with Marcus & Martinus singing “Unforgettable”.

Read our Q&A with them below:

How did you come up with the song and what’s the meaning behind it?

Alyona Alyona (left) and Jerry Heil perform during a Eurovision dress rehearsal
Alyona Alyona (left) and Jerry Heil perform during a Eurovision dress rehearsal (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Heil: We met in a studio and I remember we had six hours for the session, but it’s a rule that you can never sit and start work right away, you have to find common ground. So we were talking for maybe five hours out of the six, and in that last hour we decided to create something. All that time we’d been talking about life, the things we all go through, and how people can make mistakes along that path, but when they die, they usually remember the good stuff they did.

We agreed that we are all born equal, we are all born as human beings, but you have the human and then the divine part. So that’s the main message of the song, don’t separate one from the other, because your actions are what define you in the end.

Alyona: Our song is also about unity. We are two very different artists, in different genres with different energies, but we’re united. And we sing about symbols of kindness and of love, to leave to our children and our children’s children.

Alyona, why don’t you hear much rapping at Eurovision?

I think because Eurovision is more about vocals, that’s why rappers can play a little part but not the whole song. Rappers set the vibe and the message, and I think it also has to have a melody, too.

How has the support been for Ukraine at Eurovision?

Ukraine’s Jerry Heil and Alyona Alyona
Ukraine’s Jerry Heil and Alyona Alyona (AP)

Heil: We are so thankful, the biggest thanks to the whole world who have supported us. But we also feel that it’s getting harder to get the same level of support [for Ukraine], because people have their own problems. So with Eurovision we want to share our culture and our music, because we feel that if you know that, you feel empathy, you feel love, and that in Ukraine the people are like you, but who have lost their homes and their ability to live a normal life. And then, we hope, people will truly want to support us, not because they have to, but because they want to.

What is the significance behind the key symbol you carry?

It’s a symbol of resilience, but also unlocking childhood through this campaign by rebuilding the school and giving children in Ukraine the chance to study, to give them a future. It’s also a symbol of home, because so many people’s homes have disappeared, so the key represents a home that doesn’t exist anymore. We hope that it will encourage people to donate to our campaign.

The Eurovision Song Contest final takes place on Saturday 11 May. You can follow The Independent’s live coverage here.

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