Donbas is a region in Eastern Ukraine that is currently recognized worldwide due to the fierce war with Russia for the accession of this territory into the "Russian world".

However, at the end of the 19th century, Donbas was the center of Belgian, German, French, British, and American settlements, and housed foreign entrepreneurs who built architecture, and enterprises, and introduced progressive technologies in this territory.

After the revolution of 1917 and the Soviet’s rise to power, the factories were taken from the European and North American settlers and nationalized, effectively destroying the memory of European history there. Since February 24th, 2022, Russian troops have been continuing in their efforts to sabotage these buildings of European heritage, finalizing what their ancestors did not have time to do during the Soviet Union.

The documentary film 'Eurodonbas' explores the cultural influences and foreign heritage of cities such as Mariupol, Lysychansk, Druzhkivka, and the village of New York in Eastern Ukraine. The film team discovered and brought animated the unique, but lesser-known archival materials of Donbas during the 19th century. Experts, historians, and locals tell their tales and pieces of evidence about the region’s history, which was carefully destroyed and distorted by Soviet authorities who worked to erase the legacies of European entrepreneurs like John Hughes, Ernest Solvay, and Henrich Laude.

Unfortunately, these cities of Donbas and their European heritage as they were in the film will remain unseen. Soon after filming, almost all of them were destroyed by Russian missiles.

  • Kornii Hrytsiuk
    2020#desertedcountry, Train 'Kyiv-War'
  • Anna Palenchuk
    Numbers, Askania Reserve, 2020#desertedcountry, Mariupolis, Close Relations, Eastalgia
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 13 minutes 47 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 2, 2022
  • Country of Origin:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
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  • Cottbus FF
    November 11, 2022
    What’s Left programme
  • Cottbus
    November 12, 2022
    What’s Left programme
  • Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
    April 30, 2023
    North American Premiere
    Made in Ukraine programme
  • Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
    May 5, 2023
    North American Premiere
    Mede in Ukraine programme
  • Kharkiv MeetDocs Eastern Ukrainian Film Festival
    October 6, 2022
    World premiere
    Closing Film
Distribution Information
  • Split Screen
    Sales Agent
    Country: Croatia
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Kornii Hrytsiuk

Kornii Hrytsiuk is a Ukrainian film director and screenwriter with over a decade of experience in the industry. Over the years, he has directed several short and full-length films that have been recognized at international film festivals and awarded prizes.

In 2016, Kornii began working on his independent debut film, '2020#desertedcountry', which was the first-ever Ukrainian mockumentary about the mass exodus of Ukrainians from their country. The film was presented at the Molodist KIFF in May 2018 and subsequently screened in various countries, including Germany, the USA, the Czech Republic, and Sweden.

Following this success, Kornii worked on his next project, a documentary called 'Train: Kyiv-War', which focused on passengers traveling on a night train between Kyiv and a war zone in Eastern Ukraine. The film premiered in August 2020 at the 49th Molodist KIFF.

Most recently, Kornii completed his third documentary, 'Eurodonbas', with the support of the Ukrainian State Film Agency and the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine. The film was produced by '435 FILMS', a production company that Kornii is affiliated with.
In addition to his work in film, Kornii created an audio series in 2021 that explored the Kurenivka mudslide in Kyiv and the life of the renowned Ukrainian football coach, Valery Lobanovsky. These episodes were distributed on the MEGOGO streaming platform in Ukraine and proved to be one of the platform's most popular original audio series of the year.

Filmography (director/writer):
2022 – investigative documentary «EuroDonbass», Ukraine;
2020 – documentary «Train: Kyiv-War», Ukraine;
2018 – mockumentary «2020 #deserted country», Ukraine.

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Director Statement

The first thing I want to mention is that the most significant event for me and the entire film crew during the months of the full-scale war was when the film's protagonist, Iryna Badasen, sent a message from the bomb-destroyed Mariupol to inform us that she was alive after 138 days of the Russian invasion.

While watching this film, I realized that the once beautiful Donbas, with its unique and breathtaking places, has almost vanished. When we were shooting this film a year ago, I couldn't have imagined that soon Russian rockets would devastate these locations, destroying priceless landmarks and causing harm to civilians.

I was born in Donetsk and lived there my whole life. However, for more than 9 years, I haven't been able to return to my native city due to the occupation by the Russian forces, which have imposed Russian history and ideology under Putin's influence.

The documentary 'Eurodonbas' demonstrates that the Donbas region is not connected to the Russian world but is an integral part of European history and has successfully integrated into the European economic space. We portray this story through the documentary's protagonists, cities, and animated archival footage specially adjusted for the film.

Meanwhile, Iryna Badasen remains in Mariupol, hoping for the de-occupation of the city by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, while we eagerly await the film's screenings in different countries to share this story on an international level.

In our film, we showcase the unique European architectural pieces in Eastern Ukraine, such as the Belgian quarter of Lysychansk, which won the Belgian [Royal] Prize for the best architectural heritage of Belgium abroad in 2018. Sadly, Russian troops have now razed Lysychansk to the ground. Therefore, a key element of the film that enhances the viewers' experience and their connection to the story is witnessing the last glimpses of a once-peaceful eastern Ukrainian city.

We also feature outstanding French buildings in Druzhkivka and German settlements in the New York village. Additionally, we reveal unique photographs from that period. Modern graphics are employed to visualize key historical events, and animated picture inserts from the archives provide a more accurate and clear depiction of Donbas. Moving photographs of European capitalists, industrialists, and Ukrainian workers are also used to enhance visual storytelling. This documentary is the first of its kind in Ukraine, showcasing animated archival material on the big screen, serving as a creative tool to inform and shape the narrative.

As we follow our protagonists, capture picturesque landmarks of the region, and weave together real history, we aim to create a cinematic experience that transcends time and space, allowing the audience to connect with the story of Eastern Ukraine in real time.