Alyona Alyona & Jerry Heil Want People ‘To Feel Empathy for Ukraine’ With Their Eurovision 2024 Song

More than two years after Russia invaded Ukraine, the latter nation will once again send one of their best recording acts to the Eurovision Song Contest to represent their beleaguered nation on the world stage. Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil will sing “Teresa & Maria,” a song about the strength, courage and resilience of Ukrainian women at the 68th pan-European competition, which will be held on May 11 in Malmö, Sweden.

Alyona Alyona (real name: Aliona Olehivna Savranenko) and Jerry Heil (real name: Yana Oleksandrivna Shemaieva) were both solo artists before they became a duo. “We knew each other before creating music in common because our market is smaller than America,” Heil explains. “So every artist knows each other, but we started being productive when the big invasion started. I was a refugee [in Sweden at first] and Alyona was volunteering in Ukraine for several months. I kept asking her music producer, ‘Where’s Alyona? Is she coming? Why is she putting herself in danger?” Finally, she came to Europe to generate some donations with concerts. We started doing that together and working on an album which included eight songs. People started texting us, ‘Go to Eurovision.’ At first we said, ‘Ha-ha, of course,’ and here we are.”

“People in Ukraine wanted this,” says Alyona. “So we decided to unite and remind European audiences how united they were in the beginning over the big invasion.” Heil adds, “It’s really important for us because we want people to know that there’s not only war going on in Ukraine. We want you to feel empathy for Ukraine, to feel that we are equal, to feel that we are the same people as you are and to know our culture and to listen to our music. If you don’t know what the music of a country sounds like, you don’t know the face of the nation. You don’t feel anything for them, and we want you to feel something for us because our culture goes so deep in history, and it can bring so many new things to the world. We want you to see it and hear it. And our song has a mission.

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“We talk about people who live maybe not perfect lives and make some mistakes, but in the end, they make kindness. If you unite kindness and love, you can win the war. You can change the world. You can leave something for the children and the children of the children. It’s important,” Alyona says.

Of their Eurovision entry, “Teresa and Maria,” Heil explains that “[Ukrainian] women hold on their shoulders such a heavy world and they still manage to be divas. But we are all born as human beings, so we make mistakes, but in the end, you are defined by your actions.”

In addition to performing at Eurovision, Heil and Alyona have another mission – to raise money for the Velykokostromska School; In July 2023, a Russian missile destroyed its gymnasium and forced closure of the school. Through the government foundation United24, Alyona and Heil have a goal of raising 10 million hryvnia (over $250,000) to rebuild the facility and allow 250 children to return to school.

“A lot of schools were destroyed, but we are working with this particular one,” says Heil. “It was historical and very beautiful,” adds Alyona, “but they destroyed more than 450 schools and education buildings.” “You have to rebuild the past to build the future,” says Heil. Alyona and Heil are offering a prize to one lucky donor. “One person will win a Zoom meeting with us and we can talk with you, we can even sing for you, whatever you want us to do, but something normal!” Heil explains. “You can make a small donation, like $10,” adds Alyona.

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Meanwhile, the two women are promoting their song and appearance at Eurovision while missiles are hitting targets in Ukraine. “The war is a part of our song,” says Heil. “We cannot separate that. The song was created under attack and under alarm. Sometimes we feel like the war is nothing because it has become a part of our lives. But subconsciously we’re always stressed. And leaving the country feels more stressful than coming back here.”

If Alyona and Heil are triumphant in Malmö, this will be Ukraine’s fourth Eurovision victory. In 2004, Ruslana brought the trophy home for the first time with “Wild Dances.” Jamala won in 2016 with “1944,” a song about the deportation of Crimean Tatars by the Soviet Union. And in 2022, just months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Kalush Orchestra won with “Stefania,” a song about a Ukrainian mother that became a war anthem.

Additionally, if Alyona and Heil do win, music director Tanu Muino, born in Odesa, Ukraine, will have played a part. Having previously worked on videos for Harry Styles (“As It Was”) and Lil Nas X (“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”), Muino is directing the duo’s stage performance.

“You can imagine what we felt when we realized we were going to work with her,” says Heil. “She is immensely talented and what she does is so significant for us because she’s not only a talented Ukrainian who started working in Hollywood, but she did something which no one in the music industry did before her and we feel so proud of her.” “She’s a part of our culture,” adds Alyona. “So it’s a union of Ukrainian divas.”

The grand final of the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest will livestream in the U.S. on Peacock at 3 p.m. ET on May 11.