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Steven Perkins

Eurovision presenter Julia Sanina on her 'heartwarming' welcome in Liverpool

Julia Sanina standing in front of the Eurovision 2023 logo which consists of concentric hearts in various neon colours

Julia Sanina — the lead singer of Ukrainian rock band The Hardkiss — will be flying the flag for her country as one of the presenters at the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 in Liverpool.

Due to the current conflict in Ukraine, the UK stepped in to host this year's contest on Ukraine's behalf following Kalush Orchestra's victory in Turin, Italy in 2022, and promised that despite taking place on UK soil, Eurovision 2023 would still be a tribute to Ukrainian culture.

We caught up with Julia — who will host the semi-finals in Liverpool alongside Britain's Got Talent's Alesha Dixon and Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham, before the trio are joined by Graham Norton for the grand final — to find out what Eurovision 2023 means to her...

Julia Sanina interview for the Eurovision Song Contest 2023

How have you found your time in Liverpool so far?

"I had some time in the city centre yesterday, and I saw so many Ukrainian flags and slogans all over — that made me feel so speechless, it was heartwarming. They are very friendly people and it's a friendly city, so I'm sure that Liverpool can grow the party and make it a Ukrainian party as well!"

Alesha Dixon, Hannah Waddingham and Julia Sanina posing together at the BBC's official Eurovision Song Contest launch in Liverpool. (Image credit: BBC)

What does it mean for the people of Ukraine to have the UK hosting the contest on your behalf?

"I think everybody in Ukraine thinks that's right. Kyiv is not a safe place, unfortunately, to invite Eurovision right now, so everybody is happy that it's the UK, because we know that the BBC and the Eurovision team together can do something phenomenal.

"There are lots of Ukrainians who are involved in this process backstage. And we have lots of Ukrainian performers during the show, so there will be a lot of Ukraine in this Eurovision — that's an important thing for us, to continue to show our culture. I'd like to say that we are very grateful that you guys are doing a great job for us, and with us."

How big a deal is Eurovision in Ukraine usually?

"It is huge, it's always a big deal. Even last year, when people were watching Eurovision from the bomb shelters, they were still watching, and voting and wanting to win — that meant a lot to us. We're so proud of Kalush Orchestra."

How are you feeling as the live shows approach? Are you nervous?

"Nerves are unpleasant when you're waiting for something — to compare, this is like waiting for Christmas! So I'm expecting it, and it's a huge responsibility for me as I'm the Ukrainian host, so sometimes it's hard, but most of the time it's a great joy, and a lovely job to do."

Have you been listening to any of this year's songs in advance?

"I haven't, on purpose. I just want to see them and hear them for the first time on the stage, with the whole show — to feel that energy, to enjoy that festival of music and celebration."

The presenters of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023: Graham Norton, Alesha Dixon, Julia Sanina and Hannah Waddingham. (Image credit: BBC)

What are your favourite Eurovision songs of all time?

"It's so hard to choose! When I was at school it was Lordi [who won for Finland in 2006 with 'Hard Rock Hallelujah'] who were unforgettable, and then it was Salvador Sobral in Kyiv [winning for Portugal in 2017 with 'Amar pelos dois']. Then Måneskin [who won for Italy in 2021 with 'Zitti e buoni'] who are rockers, and I'm so for them because I'm from the rock band The Hardkiss, and last year it was the girl from Spain, Chanel [with 'SloMo'] — oh my gosh, she's so gorgeous with her dancing and movement!"

The Eurovision Song Contest 2023 Semi-Finals air on Tuesday, May 9 and Thursday, May 11 on BBC1 at 8pm, followed by the Grand Final on Saturday, May 13 on BBC1 at 8pm. 

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