Instead of its usual comedic cold open, Saturday Night Live led this week's show with a solemn choral rendition of the song “Prayer for Ukraine.”
After the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York finished their touching performance, SNL cast members Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong delivered the show's catchphrase, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night," in a more subdued tone than normal. They stood behind candles spelling out "Kyiv," the capital of Ukraine.
The hymn, written in 1885, became an anthem during Ukraine's war for independence. Its lyrics begin with “Lord, oh the Great and Almighty / Protect our beloved Ukraine / Bless her with freedom and light,” according to one translation.
The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York is made up of nonprofessional singers who perform classical, sacred, and folk choral music, mostly by Ukrainian composers.
The tribute came days after Russia invaded Ukraine and as fighting continued in cities across the country. In a statement posted on Facebook early Saturday, Viktor Liashko, Ukraine’s health minister, said at least 198 Ukrainians had been killed, including three children. At least 1,115 Ukrainians have been wounded, including 33 children, Liashko said.
The move from Russia drew immediate condemnation from the international community, which feared for the safety of Ukrainians who took up arms against the invasion, fled, or sought refuge in bomb shelters and subway stations.
Viewers on Twitter praised SNL for standing with the Ukrainian people.