This captivating work carries us into the experiences of a forgotten country through the eyes of a soldier. Everyday life, loved ones and war become a personal and intimate experience.

Jury motivations

After five trips to the Ukraine over the course of four years, I thought I had already documented everything important in that country from the Euromaidan demonstrations to the war in the Donbass – the mines region located in the eastern part of the country.

Since July 2016, very little has changed in the Ukraine in terms of strategic assets and their impact on civilian life.

With this in mind, I started asking myself how I could keep working on my project for the long term, continuing to tell the story of this land without repeating what had already been covered in previous years.
This is how the project I entitled “Donbass Stories” came to life. The idea is to depict the lives of the invisible people affected by these tragic events. The main objective of my work is to tell the stories of the daily struggles these people are facing.

Soon after the outbreak of the conflict in Donbass, Spartaco, one of the main subjects of this series of stories,  left his job and the house where he lived with his mother in northern Italy to enlist as a volunteer in the ranks of the pro-Russian militias. Single and childless, earning only 900 euros a month for a temporary job, Spartaco is one of the many victims of the Italian economic crisis. Convinced he had nothing to lose, ideologically very motivated and relying on his previous military training (the Folgore Paratroopers and Italian Army), Spartaco decided to join the separatist cause, finally abandoning his life in the province of Brescia.

Arriving in Donetsk in autumn of 2014, his military skills allowed him to be immediately enlisted in the Vostok Battalion, later to be moved to the front, right after a hasty training and without knowing a single world of Russian.

Spartaco met Liza through Facebook. Liza is a woman from Donetsk who learned Italian chatting on social networks. Abandoned by her husband, who fled to Russia after the beginning of the conflict, Liza and her children live with her parents in the family home.
Spartaco’s routine is two weeks in the trenches and two days at rest. During these two days of rest, Liza gets together with Spartaco after her shift at the theatre to spend a few intimate hours with him.


Giorgio Bianchi has covered stories in Syria, the Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Vietnam, Myanmar, Nepal, India, and more. Bianchi has won several international awards and has received much public recognition, and his pictures are regularly published in newspapers and magazines, both on paper and online. His work has been exhibited in many international and national venues. In the past four years, he has made several trips to the Ukraine where he closely followed the Donbass separatist movement.

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