Ukraine's victory at the Eurovision Song Contest brought national pride and joy to the country amid the devastation of war. Now the victory will also indirectly provide additional drones for the Ukrainian military.
Kalush Orchestra, the Ukrainian band that won Eurovision, auctioned off its trophy and the pink bucket hat the lead singer wore during the contest. The proceeds totaled more than $1.2 million, the band's spokeswoman said in a statement Monday.
"We believe that this is just the first victory for our greatest victory over the Russian aggressor," Oleh Psiuk, the band's lead singer, said in a Telegram message.
Additional drones for the Ukrainian army
The money will go to the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation, an organization founded by a Ukrainian TV presenter, and will be used to buy three drones that the army can use for surveillance, said Maria Pysarenko, a spokeswoman for the foundation.
The trophy, a handmade glass microphone designed by Swedish artist Kjell Engman, was auctioned in cryptocurrency
, Ms. Pysarenko said.
WhiteBIT, a cryptocurrency exchange platform originally from Ukraine, secured the trophy on Sunday for $900,000 after competing bids in the final minutes of the auction from businessmen from Kalush - the Ukrainian city where Mr. Psiuk is from - and a Washington charity.
"It's a big amount, but we understand that the goal is much bigger," said Margarita Polupan, a WhiteBIT spokeswoman, adding that her company had been working to bid and coordinate support for Ukraine since the war began.
The winner of the bucket hat "with the sweat and tears of Oleh," as Mr. Prytula described it, was chosen at random in a separate lottery, where each ticket cost 200 Ukrainian hryvnia, or less than $7. More than 30,000 people participated, raising more than $300,000.
Volodymyr Onyshchuk, a Ukrainian IT engineer who lives in the Czech Republic and is a regular donor to Mr. Prytula's charity, won the prize. He said in a telephone interview that he bought several lots because he thought it was "a cool situation," adding that he planned to take a "picture for Facebook" with the hat before donating it to a museum in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, or in Kalush.
A song to share a political message
After winning Eurovision, Kalush Orchestra called on his fans to show support by donating to help the Ukrainian army. "Every euro you donate helps save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers!" the band wrote in an Instagram post promoting the auction.
According to Eurovision rules, it is a "non-political event," but the contest has never really been isolated from world politics.
Kalush Orchestra's winning song, "Stefania," was written to honor Mr. Psiuk's mother. Although it does not contain overtly political lyrics, it has been reinterpreted as a patriotic hymn to Ukraine as a motherland.
After the contest, the band released a music video for "Stefania" which features destroyed buildings and female soldiers carrying children among the rubble, as a clear reference to the war. The video has been viewed nearly 20 million times.
"If Stefania is now the anthem of our war," Psiuk wrote in the caption for the video, "I would like it to become the anthem of our victory.