I volunteered at Eurovision 2017 in Kyiv and here's my story.
Eurovision Song Contest is one of the greatest musical shows of Europe and an event one definitely wouldn’t want to miss. This year it took place in beautiful Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine and the city I fell in love with two years ago when I moved here from my hometown. So I decided it was a perfect chance to become a part of this musical fest, gain some volunteer experience, meet a lot of interesting and bright people and of course, enjoy the wonderful music.
It all started when I found an application on the internet while monitoring the news and I immediately filled it without a second thought. I wasn’t at all sure I would be selected but I hoped and waited anyway. And finally, in February, I received a long-expected phone call from the First national TV channel: I passed the first stage of the selection, which was conducted solely based on the information in the application. Who knows what influenced the decision: the fact that I work at 112.international that confirms my knowledge of English or they simply appreciated that I also learn Japanese, Polish and French? I’m not sure but it was definitely one of the happiest days of my life!
So I was invited to the interview – the second stage of the selection process. When I actually came to the place of the interview, I already got in the other world, this wonderful atmosphere among people who are young, positive, nice and active, willing to represent Ukraine in the best way possible and help anyone who will be visiting the country. The interview itself was very interesting as well. 4 candidates were interviewed at a time; it was fun answering the questions like: “What would you do to prevent the conflict if punks and LGBT people will meet and there is a danger of fight?”
The results of the interview were announced on March 27. As you may already know there were different categories of Eurovision volunteers: for Euro Club, Euro Village, Catering, Medical team, Delegation Bubble, Hosts, Security and some other. I was selected as a Press Center Volunteer which made me really proud of myself – there were 12,000 applications and only a little more than 900 people got chosen.
During the whole of April the volunteers had to learn a lot to prepare for the work. Press Center Volunteers had two obligatory training: Customer Service and Press Center training. We were taught tips on how to calmly solve problems, how to remain positive and keep smiling at all times to make the guests’ stay in Ukraine pleasant and comfortable.
In the Press Center, we provided all kinds of help: we managed pigeon holes, helped call a taxi, gave out metro cards and media begs, journalists came to book the interview rooms, press conference rooms, to get various information. Besides this, our overly active volunteers helped our colleagues of Security, Opening Ceremony etc. and were practically everywhere at the same time. After all the work we got a little tired of those pigeon holes and on the May 13, when they were finally empty, we jumped to the sky out of joy. But now many of us feel nostalgic and sometimes I want to go back and check someone’s pigeon hole.
Here are some interesting, sometimes funny situations I remembered. One day, a journalist from Finland (I think) came to receive his number and he had a T-shirt that said “未来はここにある”( means “Future is here” in Japanese). I was overjoyed, anticipating our nice chat in Japanese, turned out he had no idea what that meant so I told the young man what he was wearing. Perhaps it’s just my imagination but he seemed surprised.
My fellow volunteer said you can at once tell apart Russian journalist by the way they are always displeased and act like everybody owes them. But not all of them were like that, to be fair. Despite the fact that the Russian Federation did not participate this year in the ESC, around 70 Russian journalists got accreditation.
All the guests, fans, journalists from other countries were polite, positive, loved joking, brought presents and sweets for volunteers and were very thankful for our efforts.
The German journalist of ARD/NDR German TV Tim Gailus who took an interview with volunteers said that he felt like Ukrainians were no different from Germans. He said he felt at home in our city. Apparently, he liked it here very much.
Many journalists noted how well Eurovision in Kyiv was organized. Among them was Josef Peter from Germany and the Editor-in-Chief of ESC Daily.com agency of the Netherlands – Steef van Gorkum. Steef said that before coming to Ukraine he was a little worried there might be some problems with organization and was pleasantly surprised to see that everything was amazing. He remembered the Eurovision in Denmark, Copenhagen where the working area for journalists was far from the stage and it was hard to get there sometimes in time and the press center was in the tent and it was really cold there. So Kyiv press center was different in a good way.
By the way, the areas of the press center were: fan zone, journalists’ working area, delegation bubble, press conference room, interview rooms, offices and the entrance to the stage just a few meters away from the info desk.
Separately, I have to say about how fabulous the stage was. The whole arena was a fairytale world, so overwhelmingly beautiful it was.
Volunteers were supposed to be neutral – we were not to mention our preferences and not to discuss political issues which I found pretty challenging. Seeing so many foreigners at the same place, I wanted to talk about everything with everyone. I really wanted to shout that I like France’s song, Alma and her beautiful voice and Estonia’s song so atmospheric and mysterious. I learned the lyrics by heart and was sinning them non-stop. Still there were some favorite songs among us, volunteers, that we liked to sing in chorus: ‘I can’t go on’ (Sweden), ‘Occidentali’s karma’ (Italy), ‘Grab the moment’ (Norway), ‘Hey, mama!’ (Moldova), Yodel it (Romania, though it was really hard sometimes).
We also had some really outstanding volunteers from other countries in our Volunteer Family. One of them is Tobias Wandinger from Munich, Germany. Toby was a volunteer in Eurovision in Vienna in 2015 and it was such a great experience for him that this time he decided to take part in Eurovision 2017 in Ukraine. The first thing he noticed that was different in Kyiv compared to his hometown is the prices, especially for alcohol, he said.
Brandon Acorn, USA native who came all the way to Ukraine was also a part of our family. Brandon was our little sun who could lift your mood just by being there. He said he participated in Eurovision this year because he had been to Ukraine once before and wanted to come back, and because he really loved Eurovision since he saw it when he lived in Spain in 2015. He thought it would be a great way to meet new people, meet the stars, and be a part of something that brought lots of international people from different backgrounds together. Brandon finds that younger Ukrainians are really friendly and easy to talk to, full of hope and energy. Older Ukrainians and men in general that weren't participating in Eurovision seem to him very homophobic, but he said he knew that before coming to Kyiv. Brandon thinks that Kyiv is a cool city that doesn't look like much on the outside, but once you find the right people and walk inside buildings, you discover how much the city has to offer, even for seasoned travelers.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that Brandon also speaks fine Japanese! He learned it 3 years in university. I mean, seriously? Ukrainian and US volunteers talk in Japanese in Ukraine...hilarious! Miracles are all around us. And Eurovision is a place you can see them with your own eyes!
Talking about material profits of being a volunteer it’s the little things we received – 2 ‘Eurovision’ T-shirts and a raincoat, handbooks, rucksacks from Czech Republic and Sweden and in the end we could take the CDs, programs, we also got really lovely T-shirts from Australia and many other cute simple stuff as a memento. We were given the Certificate signed by Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko. At the ceremony after the Eurovision, the Mayor danced on the stage for promoting a healthy way of life.
Another splendid thing is the photos with artists. But my most adorable and fantastic are my fellow volunteers - friends and family I came to love so much during the Eurovision. They made my two weeks of this interesting but sometimes stressful work really unforgettable, filled with joy and fun. I can’t express how grateful I am for their support and their warmth.
So, next time, Portugal it is. Go with us!