Eurovision up close; Candelo couple enjoying Ukraine tour and international song contest | Photos, Videos

From chook washing and wool design in rural Candelo to the kitsch and wonder of Eurovision.

It’s an emotional and exciting week for Tabitha Bilaniwskyj-Zarins and husband Andy as they travel rural Ukraine and the city of Kiev.

Tabitha’s father and grandmother were Ukrainian but she had never been before now – in fact this is her first time out of Australia as an adult.

However, the idea of seeing the Eurovision Song Contest up close, plus visiting the homeland, was a lure too strong to resist.

“I don't why but I woke up one day with such a strong feeling to go to Eurovision because it was in Ukraine!” Tabitha told the Bega District News this week.

“I am the first of my Australian family to visit and I hope to find some related family, there are so many unanswered questions about my Ukrainian family. 

“I have been a fan of Eurovision for many years, my husband is Latvian and we play in a band together so Eurovision is about the music.”

Andy Zarins actually entered this year as a songwriter for Latvia. Unfortunately it didn't qualify but the couple hopes to try again next year as a band and would love to perform at Eurovision.

“It has been quite a journey following this year's song contest. I joined an Australian fan club to help navigate going and I'm glad I did. It's crazy!

“I really hope that hosting Eurovision in Kyiv will bring some happiness, hope and help boost the economy.”

Tabitha said her favourites for this year include entries from Czech Republic, Greece, Bulgaria, Norway, Switzerland and Portugal.

“I do love the Ukrainian entry also! I don't think that Australia's song is very strong this year and the young man Isaiah is so courageous in participating with little experience. I wish him the very best of success.”

Tabitha says visiting Kiev is an emotional journey for her.

While Eurovision is an exciting celebration of life, love and uniting countries through music, for Tabitha it is also about understanding what her grandmother lived through and the hardships that Ukraine has endured.

“My Baba, Halyna Korniko, survived Holodomor and was a prisoner of WW2,” Tabitha said.

“She immigrated to Australia at the end of the war with one child and a husband. Her husband left her and my grandmother was left to work and support her children in a foreign land that was so different.

“I see her as such an amazing and incredible woman who was so strong and had so much love for her family. So for me coming to Kyiv will be a very emotional time.”

Tabitha said flying in to the Ukraine for the first time was very exciting.

“I loved the tapestry of the landscape. The different coloured paddocks and small villages is very similar to home.

”We have been to the Holodomor Memorial and have seen the exhibition there. I found my Baba's village there in one of the books.

“The staff was very very helpful – I used Google translator to communicate.  They were so delighted they could help me. There were lots of hugs and kisses.

“I discovered more information about my Baba's time through the war. I saw the workers concentration camp journal where her name would be but it was behind glass. I could feel her name in there, in my bones.”

Tabitha and Andy also visited Chernobyl and the ghost town of Pripyat on Wednesday (our time) with their group, “an absolutely incredible tour”. 

“As far as Eurovision is concerned it is an amazing production. There are three shows each final. The jury final is a show where a jury from each country votes.

“Then there is a dress rehearsal during the day for families. Then the live TV performance takes place and then the voting for the public begins. So there are nine shows in all.

“The songs are as diverse as the countries of course!

“Here in Ukraine we already know the results for Semi One so I don't want to spoil the surprise – and by the time the paper goes out we will know all the grand finalists! The favorite here in Europe is Italy to win. 

“Eurovision does bring people together and people that go to Eurovision just love the music and just love to party!”