A Ukraininan refugee from Smethwick hailed the energising impact of singing ahead of a special Eurovision themed performance.
Samir Adam Khan, 13, was forced to flee his home in Odessa, Ukraine, after the outbreak of war in his country last year before finding a new home in the West Midlands.
The teenager is now part of the National Lottery funded European Youth Music Refugee Choir (EYMRC) which performed alongside former UK Eurovision star Sonia as part of the build-up to the Eurovision Song Contest.
The contest will be hosted on behalf of Ukraine in Sonia’s home city of Liverpool in May.
Following rehearsals at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, the choir sung a rendition of Sonia’s 1989 UK No.1 hit You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You with the star herself at the National Lottery funded Everyman Theatre.
The song included a new second verse in Ukrainian, and Khan explained the positive impact the project has had.
“It’s really fun and interesting, and it’s something new,” he said. “It has been much better than I thought.
“My school told me about the choir and there would be different people, and that it would be part of the Eurovision celebrations with The National Lottery.
“Being in the choir has helped me because I feel more energy with the choir than without it. “I came here from Ukraine, a city called Odessa and I had to leave because of the terrible war happening in Ukraine.
“We went to Turkey for two months, then Moldova to Romania and then we got admitted to the UK. Now I am here making progress, learning English and making new friends.
“People were open, they were helping me, and I feel comfortable in my school in UK even when I didn’t know English.”
The National Lottery is one of the biggest supporters of music and culture in Liverpool with over £330m invested in 3,600 arts and heritage projects to date.
Liverpool’s historic hosting of Eurovision sees The National Lottery make a further multi-million-pound contribution to arts, heritage and community across the city.
Over 50 young people from countries including Ukraine and Afghanistan are part of the choir that will sing alongside Sonia, who came second for the UK at Eurovision in 1993.
The Liverpool-born singer always dreamed of bringing the contest back to her home city and is thrilled to finally have the chance to do so three decades on.
“When I was first invited to do it, I realised what a fantastic cause it is. Music brings and unites everyone together,” she said.
“It’s just lovely to see them all smiling and enjoying the song. To think about what they have been through, it’s wonderful for them to be able to come together.
“The song feels appropriate because of the words in the song You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You: no matter what happens, love unites. It’s such a wonderful thing for the refugees and asylum seekers to come together.
“It’s not just about music, it’s about finding new friends, having fun. A lot of these young people are vulnerable and it’s good for them to be able to come out of their shell and make them feel as welcome as possible.
“It’s fantastic that the National Lottery are doing this. Seeing them come to live, have joy, have hope given all the horrible things they have been through. To now have a release, to find new friends, come together and have a bit of fun.
“When I did it, I lost out by one point and I said if I did win it had to come to Liverpool – and now my dream has come true!
“It’s fantastic that Eurovision is coming to Liverpool, hosting it on behalf of Ukraine. We are going to do it so proud for them.
“The music heritage coming from Liverpool is outstanding and I couldn’t think of a more apt place to hold it – it had to be Liverpool!”
National Lottery players raise more than £30 million a week for arts, education, environment, health, heritage, sport, and voluntary projects across the UK; see the difference it’s making near you at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk