At Eurovision 2016, two years after Russia illegally annexed Crimea, she reminded the world of the region’s painful history.
And in recent months Jamala has emerged as a cultural ambassador, travelling Europe to raise funds to support Ukrainians as Russia wages a bloody and devastating war.
Speaking to the Press Association following her recent performance at Glastonbury, Jamala discussed the European Broadcasting Union’s decision to stage Eurovision 2023 outside of Ukraine.
“It’s really sad the EBU decided to take away all this chance and all this hope,” she told the news agency.
“[But] I really understand that it has to be in a peaceful place for participants and for everybody.”
If the contest has to be taken from the Ukrainians, she agrees that the U.K. deserves the right of first refusal.
“Great Britain came second in the competition, so if Ukraine is unwilling to host the event for whatever reason, it would be fair to hold it in one of your cities.”
Jamala said the decision on where to host the competition was “premature” and that, as a Ukrainian, she found it very painful.
In a second explanation of their decision, issued following criticism from within the U.K. government, the EBU elaborated on the security risks posed by staging the contest in Ukraine during a war.
Among other things, it cited a severe risk of “air raids/attacks by aircraft or attacks by drones or missiles, which can cause significant casualties.”
“The EBU sought third-party expert security advice which clearly stated that the counter measures proposed to mitigate the threats planning the event in Ukraine were insufficient for an international public event and the risk rating of a mass casualty event due to the ongoing conflict is ‘high’.”
Jamala fled Ukraine with her children shortly after bombs started falling on the capital. Her travels through Europe have opened her eyes to the gifts so many take for granted.
“It’s the first Glastonbury in my life and I see that freedom,” Jamala said.
“It’s a treasure to be human… to be wearing whatever, and just express yourself. You don’t even know how important it is.”
“We have a voice, we have strong voices… We have our vision and our followers, we have our fans. And we can really do something to talk about this because we can stop this evil only if we are united, only if we are together.”