From bomb shelter to Europe’s biggest dance show

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“I would like to say that music helps the military to be strong and keep fighting,” says Viktoria

Two Ukrainian DJs who have spent the past few months performing in bomb shelters will be part of the lineup for Europe’s biggest dance show.

The marathon broadcast, involving 11 radio stations in 10 countries, will later return to BBC Radio 1.

But for Viktoria Polchenko of Radio Promin in Ukraine, it will mean a little more than just a party.

Music has the power to act “like a lifeline that helps us to be strong and to hold on”, she told BBC Newsbeat.

It will be the first time the show, which begins in London, will involve Ukraine.

Viktoria in the capital Kyiv and fellow DJ Leo Levsky in the city of Lviv will represent the country.

At the moment, the pair are split between the two locations because of the war.

DJ Leo says there is “emotional stress” for many Ukrainians whose family members are fighting on the front lines.

But events involving a lot of dance music allow people to “rest and connect with people,” he says.

Predictably, both men say working in a war isn’t easy, but it’s something they’ve gotten used to.

Viktoria describes “doing everything in the bomb shelters”, with live broadcasts being recorded there in case of threats.

And she says the Covid pandemic has provided a rehearsal for broadcasting in difficult times.

“We’ve worked online, offline, and I believe we’ve passed that test right now,” she says.

Leo also played songs inside the bomb shelters, with tunes often beginning with someone’s phone.

“The jokes then start coming in and everyone gets involved in listening. Sometimes we even sing along, which helps relieve the stress.”

DJ Leo

DJ Leo thinks music can serve as liberation for Ukrainians

Radio 1’s Danny Howard will kick off the show at 6pm BST in the UK before handing over to the next country.

“Friday nights and Radio 1 are always a big party, it sounds like the start of the weekend,” he says.

“It’s just a huge vibe. Take that and multiply it across an entire continent.”

For many, the past few years have been difficult with the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

But Danny says dance music can often be a way to lift a mood and bring people together.

“People can turn on the radio for free and get involved in a big occasion,” he says.

Danny Howard

Danny looks forward to music from the UK, but also from other countries like Germany, which he describes as having “a rich heritage”.

The night will end in Ukraine, a country in conflict with Russia since February.

“It’s heartbreaking to see what happened. I think it’s only fitting that we can end such a great occasion in Kyiv,” Danny said.

“So I hope this puts a smile on a few faces [of people listening there]even if it’s only for that half hour.”

Viktoria understands the power of radio and many who will tune in to listen once Russia is invaded.

“We want to show people that we are with them, that we feel them and that we support them,” she adds.

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