Grand Hotel Donetsk

2017・Giorgio Bianchi

Children play on a computer inside their room. Each room is a small world containing whatever possessions families were able to save from the destruction of their homes.
As a result of displacement and various moves many children have completely lost touch with their old friends.

Mostly ignored by the Western media, war in the Ukraine has continued without pause.
Despite the signing of the second Minsk protocol there are still artillery attacks on the villages on the outskirts of Donetsk and all along the front line.
Most of the population has moved abroad or found refuge with friends or acquaintances in Donetsk.
Unfortunately some were unable to flee, either because they had no one with whom to take refuge, or because their paperwork was not in order.
The lack of proper paperwork is a common problem for many living within the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR). Ukraine’s law requires the periodic renewal of passport photos to maintain the validity of its passports. Those who were unable to update their photos before the conflict started now face the dilemma of having to go through the frontline, which serves as a de facto border, in order to renew their passports with the authorities in Kiev.
For those caught up in this situation and deprived of their means of livelihood the only option is to be assigned a room in an evacuation centre. There are many of these in Donetsk and between them they house thousands of people.
Typically, these centres are tower blocks dating from the Khrushchev era and which have had many uses over the years: housing estates, hospitals, and university halls of residence.
Evacuees are assigned a room, the size of which depends on the size and composition of their family groups. They cover a wide social spectrum, from families with children, to the elderly (including WWII veterans), wounded soldiers and political refugees.
Each of them has a story to tell, for the most part about loved ones and places they abandoned in panicked haste because of the bombardments.
The kitchens, bathrooms and showers are all communal, interspersed among the rooms on the corridors of each floor. There are rooms for washing clothes and hanging them to dry as well as areas for children to play.
Every room is a small world filled with furniture, electric appliances, daily necessities, books and memories, because each room now holds their occupants’ entire lives.

Giorgio Bianchi (b.1973) is an Italian photojournalist, documentary photographer and filmmaker.
Since 2013 he has made several trips to Ukraine, where he followed closely the Ukrainian crisis from the Euromaidan protests until the outbreak of war between the government army and the pro-Russian separatists.
Thanks to his robust archive of footage and pictures about the Donbass conflict he is making a docufilm entitled “Apocalypse Donbass”.

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