Ukraine 2024: alyona alyona & Jerry Heil
Jerry Heil (left) and alyona alyona (right)

alyona alyona & Jerry Heil from Ukraine: "Our song is a reminder of how united we were in the beginning of the invasion"

INTERVIEW Ukraine's participation in Eurovision is more than just singing a song on stage. It's also a reminder of the situation in the country. alyona alyona & Jerry Heil's mission fits right in with their song "Teresa & Maria"

News from the ongoing war in Ukraine has become part of our daily lives. There isn't a single day that reports about Russia's invasion aren't shown on the news all over the world.

Having Ukraine in Eurovision, more than promoting its diverse culture and great music, is also a reminder that the country is still in war without any sign of peace.

That's also part of alyona alyona & Jerry Heil's mission with their participation in Eurovision 2024:

– Eurovision is not a political competition, but we cannot be silent about the ongoing problems in our country, alyona alyona says.

– So, we're here trying to make people remember that we're still here. Our song is about union and that's our biggest mission: To show people how united we were during the first months of the invasion.

Eurovision is not a political competition, but we cannot be silent about the ongoing problem in our country.alyona alyona

So, your song is also a reminder of what is still going on at home.

– Of course, we wrote this song in the circumstances of bomb attacking. I feel like people's perception of the war has changed, but we understand why, Jerry says.

– People are tired of the news and they also have their own lives, but Eurovision is the place where cultural diplomacy works best. This is our task: to show our faces and let people know how we sound. This way, people don't just read in the news that another city has been bombed. People can also go to a playlist and listen to Ukrainian music and feel empathy toward us.

Jerry concludes:

– When you listen to our music and show us support, you're showing that you want this culture to survive.

Indeed. Not only the Ukrainian culture but all of Ukraine. Certainly not only due to empathy toward the ongoing situation, alyona alyona and Jerry Heil have been getting a massive amount of support since their selection:

– We feel so supported and it's like a synergy because you give this energy and you receive it back. People are warm and loving. This is how music should work. It should unite people.

Ukraine 2024: alyona alyona & Jerry Heil – "Teresa & Maria"

The duo alyona alyona & Jerry Heil won the Ukrainian selection competition for Eurovision, Vidbir 2024, with the song "Teresa & Maria."

And once again, Ukraine is one of the favorites to win Eurovision according to the bookmakers:

– We are thankful because we created something that resonates with us and with our souls, which is incredible, but that it also resonates with a huge amount of people around the world. It's crazy, Jerry says.

How do you cope with such expectations?

– I don't know. Sometimes, we feel like it's a big...a big..., alyona alyona stops for a moment. She forgot the word she wants to use, but Jerry knows what she's thinking:

– Responsibility!

– Yes! Responsibility, alyona alyona laughs.

– It's a big responsibility for us to represent our culture. This is also our mission and we will do it the best we can.

Vidbir 2024 and "Teresa & Maria"

While their Vidbir victory was on par with what the bookmakers predicted, the duo didn't take that for granted. Not only because they did all they could to win, but also because the competition was fierce and filled with other contestants who are "incredibly talented."

After winning, "Teresa & Maria" hit number one on the Ukrainian charts, and people have been responding to it in various ways:

– People say they feel goosebumps whenever they hear it. It's also very spiritual to people. Many have told us it cleaned their soul. That's a huge compliment, alyona alyona shares.

If my participation depended on my ego, I wouldn't have come again. But this is bigger than that and it drives me.Jerry Heil

"Teresa & Maria" was inspired by a conversation between the two about how humans don't even notice the beauty of someone that is within their lives until they die. They decided to call those "holy people":

– All the holy people were born as humans. You can make mistakes, but at the same time your actions truly define who you are in the end, Jerry says.

The duo is on their way to the Eurovision Song Contest 2024, but they've been friends for a while now. And as such, "Teresa & Maria" is not their first collaboration. In 2023, they joined forces for the song "Щедра ніч," and just this year while coming up with their Eurovision song they also recorded another track that they thought of submitting for the Ukrainian national selection contest.

In fact, the girls already wanted to compete together in the contest last year but time lacked:

– Last year, we tried to participate but we had no time and hadn't the opportunity to reunite for it, Jerry tells.

– Yes, it was hectic. Jerry sent me a demo and I could only listen to it a week after. We were also in different countries.

It was alyona alyona's sound producer who initially proposed the idea of them two collaborating for Vidbir. While last year it wasn't possible, it finally happened this year:

– This year, he asked again and I was like "of course!" I didn't even think about it because I knew it'd be powerful for both of us and for people.

How is your chemistry in the studio?

– It is really strong, we feel each other on a material level and no one crosses anyone. We could be writing in complete opposites sides of a room, and when we come together and show each other what we wrote, it just connects, Jerry explains.

– But it will also always have two sides because I am a rapper, I am tougher, whereas Jerry is softer, she's like a superwoman.

Eurovision 2024

This year's Vidbir participation marked Jerry Heil's third attempt at trying to represent Ukraine in Eurovision:

– I just felt like I had to come back. When I participated the first time [2020], I also had a mission, Jerry shares.

– Her song was about veganism, which was, back then, a brand new thing for Ukrainians. It helped change the situation and how people see it, alyona alyona adds.

– With my second song [2023], I wanted to show people that we're resilient and we are still standing, and this time it's all about uniting the world. If my participation depended on my ego, I wouldn't have come again. But this is bigger than that and it drives me, Jerry concludes.

On the other hand, alyona alyona went from being a Eurovision jury member (2021) to a contestant, but admits that she's not too nervous about being on the other side of the spectrum:

– We believe in God and we trust on whatever is to come, she says.

Let's focus on what's to come: their performance for Eurovision 2024.

– There will be a lot of changes, alyona alyona says. Jerry Heil intervenes right after:

– Don't say more! She laughs and continues:

– We basically recreated the formula, but it will be a cool surprise.

What did the background of your Vidbir performance represent?

– It's a symbol of a woman but it doesn't have a face because it's meant to represent every woman and the message that we're strong and carry the world on our shoulders, Heil says.

– Yes, a woman that sometimes can look as tiny as a little flower, inside may be a big whole tree, and that's beautiful, alyona alyona completes.

Still about their upcoming performance, the ladies have special thanks: to Pinterest:

– In the beginning of the creation of the performance, there was a main question: "What do you see when you sing this song?" And we started sending pictures to one another, alyona alyona says.

– Thank you, Pinterest, Jerry replies. They laugh.

From then on, the duo, along with a creative team, built what we'll see in Malmö.

– What truly makes me happy is that everything is built on the song, Jerry adds.

What does Eurovision mean to you?

– I'd say it's a window through which you can see different cultures, and that's so important because you can make someone fall in love with it. You can create connections, bonds, and that's it. Eurovision for me is the stage where you can discover and where you can represent yourself, Jerry starts.

– It's also about getting inspired because in every Eurovision you open yourself to something new whether it is super traditional sounds, modern elements, or even rock music.

Eurovision is a window through which you can see different cultures, and that's so important because you can make someone fall in love with it.Jerry Heil

That's precisely the duo's goal with their participation as well:

– Our goal isn't even about getting the first place or for people to hear this exact song. It's about getting people to know Ukrainian music even more and to add it to their playlists. It deserves more, Jerry says.

– There is so much diversity amongst Ukrainian music, please listen to it!

A final message

Our time is coming to an end, but before they go let's hear about their beginnings. alyona alyona used to be a kindergarten teacher before she became a famous rapper and, while at first the professions may seem unrelated, she took several lessons from it into her career:

– I've always loved to sing and to rap even more. It was my hobby since I was 12, but I did make a career in kindergarten. And the funny thing is that I used to help to educate children and today we raise children in the whole country, she says.

– I truly had to go this route before because children taught me what pure love is, how to see beauty in everything. And they've also taught me how to easily forgive because they don't think about it.

A fun fact about Jerry is that her stage name "Heil" was a random choice:

– I started making and learning music since I was three and got my first computer at the age of 13. There, I started creating different blogs, different namings. I was, for example, Bridget Mitchell at one point and I don't know why.

– I even was, attention...Coca Chups! She bursts out laughing.

– At 15 I was Jerry Mouse, and when I was 16 I thought I was too old for this so I had to try to find something fancier. So, I went to a website with American last names and I thought Jerry Heil sounds good.

She goes on to share that Heil can also mean "holy," even if that was something she'd only find out a few years later.

Just before they go off to their rehearsal, alyona alyona & Jerry Heil have a final message for all the readers:

– Firstly, thank you so much for everyone who helps Ukrainian refugees, who make donations, and who support Ukrainian music and, of course, for the beautiful comments. It's an honor to have people who listen to our song and resonate with it.

– If you want to help and don't know how to do so, we have a few links in our social media.

You can also find ways to help through Eurovisionworld's main page or whenever you access an Ukrainian related article or song.

alyona alyona & Jerry Heil will compete in the first Semi-final of Eurovision 2024 with "Teresa & Maria" on 7 May.

About the author: Pedro Santos (Portugal)

authorPedro comes from Lisbon, Portugal. He's 30 years old and graduated in journalism. He has attended Eurovision Song Contest three times live - 2018, 2019 and 2022 - and covered the show twice more (2021, 2023) but his first Eurovision memory takes him back to 2007 when Sarbel delivered his catchy "Yassou Maria" performance. Pedro's favorite Eurovision song is Albania's 2015 "I'm Alive" by Elhaida Dani which is also his favorite Eurovision edition.

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