Child refugee to Eurovision: the story of Sweden's Tusse

From a Ugandan refugee camp to here: the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest.

19-year-old Tusse will represent Sweden in the Netherlands in May.

Tusse - short for Tousin Chiza – was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He was separated from his parents at the age of five during an attempted escape from the civil war-torn African country.

"I was born in Congo, Kinshasa in Africa and so we lived there until I turned five and then we had to flee the country because there were a lot of wars going on and it wasn't safe. So we fled and ultimately I ended up living with my aunt because my parents disappeared."

For three years he lived in a refugee camp in Uganda before being granted asylum in Sweden.

"The difference is huge. Going from the refugee camp where you didn't know, you had no idea where your next meal would be or if there were any food, to Sweden which there is plenty of food, plenty of water. You don't have to worry about those kinds of things. It's really cold here."

Having sung throughout his childhood in Africa in church choirs, Tusse kept singing in Sweden from choirs to talent contests like Swedish Idol, which he won in 2019.

"You have to understand that the culture in Congo where I come from, music is inserted in the culture, so you have the dancing, the singing, the drumming, the rhythm."

Tusse found out a few years ago that his biological parents were still alive, although his mother has since passed away.

"It was crazy. I grew up thinking my parents were gone and ultimately thinking that they were dead, so to actually find out that they were alive and well and they got in touch with me for the first time, it was huge. So much joy."

Tusse said his father had been cheering him on during the Swedish Eurovision qualifier contests.

"But also he would be like 'Well, this is just a hobby right? You're going to be a doctor after this right?' And I have to reassure him like 'yes, maybe', but he's like, 'Music is fun but you're going to be a doctor right?'"

This year's Eurovision Song Contest - one of the world's biggest annual television events, will take place in Rotterdam from May 18-22.

Tusse says he’s inspired by Loreen – who won the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden in 2012.

"She inspired me to think outside the box and making it the whole art. It's not just about the voice, it's about expressing the emotions, it's about having a message, it's about what you're wearing. And so I got really nerdy about this stuff and I've been a fan of Eurovision since. And there have been a lot of great numbers and great songs and performances. I remember "Rise like a Phoenix" with Conchinta. I was mesmerized. So it's huge to be here."