Rona Nishliu cried chaiiiiii at Eurovision—and all of Europe sat up to listen. The Kosovar-Albanian’s pitch-perfect performance of “Suus” brought many a grown man to tears—and not merely because it’s a beautiful song. On May 21, on the eve of the first semi-final, a bus carrying literature students drove over a cliff in southern Albania. Thirteen people died, 25 were injured and Albania declared a national day of mourning on May 22. The broadcast of the Eurovision semi-final was cancelled.
But Rona pushed on. She took to the stage, stayed in tune, and ended her performance with a gasp of air and a flood tears. She came to the first semi-final press conference draped in the Albanian national flag and with puffy eyes from crying. “This performance tonight is a dedication to all those poor souls who lost their lives in a tragic accident in Albania,” she said. “I really feel very sorry for what happened.”
Rona’s performance during the first semi-final:
She should also feel pretty darn happy. Rona has given Albania something to celebrate with her fifth-place finish at Eurovision: it is her country’s best-ever placement, and she earned top marks from Macedonia, Italy, Switzerland and San Marino. The fact that she’s a Kosovar-Albanian makes it even more special, and builds on the achievements of other hot Kosovars like Miss Kosovo Afërdita Dreshaj, who in 2011 made the Top 16 at the Miss Universe pageant, and Marigona Dragusha, who was second runner-up in 2009.
Wiwi’s friends at Eurosongshqiperia sent us the good news that Rona has returned to Albania as the undisputed queen of experimental jazz and a national hero. She’s pretty popular in Kosovo, too. In the aftermath of Eurovision Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci wrote Rona an open letter. Here’s what it said:
On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Kosovo and in my name, I express best wishes for the success of Kosovar singer, Rona Nishliu, which represented a dignified values ??of Kosovo under Albania’s national flag at Eurovision.
On May 29 Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha welcomed Rona back home, where she held court with Berisha and his top ministers. The Prime Minister was particularly thrilled her fantastic performance took place in 2012—Albania’s 100th year of independence. According to Eurosongshqiperia Rona thanked the premier for his support. “I feel privileged to be here at this meeting with you,” she said. “Thank you so much for your support. You called me immediately after the festival, which was the most pleasant surprise, which made ??me even more proud of what we achieved on stage.”
On May 31 Rona traveled to Pristana, the capital of Kosovo, to visit her family. Florent Pixels, the composer of “Suus,” accompanied her to a celebration attended by their friends, family and Atifete Jahjaga, the president of Kosovo. As you can see below, they ate a massive cake shaped like the word “Suus.” It may have filled Rona up, but it’s left us hungry for more of her music!