Intersection in Mariupol’s Vostochny district where already on January 24, 2015, Grad rockets dropped and killed at least 30 people; According to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine the rockets were fired from positions occupied by Russia-backed separatist forces; photographed December 2021

A Letter to Jenna – Episode #01 – Mariupol  [Dec 2021, Feb 2022]

In the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, the city of Mariupol saw skirmishes break out between Ukrainian government forces and separatist militias affiliated with the so called Donetsk People's Republic and backed by Russia. Being located only 15km from the resulting front lines, it was subsequently attacked militarily by rocket shelling in 2015 – from DPR controlled territories, according to OSCE monitors.

Already alongside the geopolitical escalation of the conflict, scientific evidence showed that Mariupol’s population had been subject to foreign interference in connection with pro-Kremlin narratives, targeted disinformation campaigns and conspiracy theories.

After Vladimir Putin’s formal recognition of the Russia-backed so called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics on February 21, 2022, Russian troops in a war of aggression started invading Ukrainian territory the day after, systematically destroying infrastructure and civilian homes in Mariupol. Since then, the city became a site of war atrocities and crimes against humanity through aggressive and continuous shelling from Russian troops. Numerous attempts to establish humanitarian corridors to protect the civilian population failed in the days that followed.

Project context:
Various major political events in recent years have been profoundly influenced by the targeted spread of false information and massive interferences from social networks. This has had devastating effects on the decision-making processes in democratic states and is continuing to threaten to destabilise their societies.

Recently, an offensive war of aggression has been launched by Vladimir Putin, built on a range of blatant lies, the targeted dissemination of propagandist narratives, false accusations, and deliberate deception within a sphere of diplomatic norms.

›A Letter to Jenna‹ is an ongoing multidisciplinary documentary project exploring the topic of disinformation and focussing on existing counter-movements in consecutive episodes.

Back to project-index

Apartment block where Irina and her family used to live until the Russian invasion. The entire residential area was razed to the ground by Russian troops until mid March 2022.

View of the former frontline area directly ahead of the building

Irina at her house

For 15 years, Irina with her daughter and her husband have been living in the very last building of Mariupol’s foremost eastern settlement. At a distance of less than a kilometer from the checkpoint to the buffer zone and the uncertain future of further Russian military expansion. Along with Vladimir Putin’s formal recognition of the Russia-backed so called Donetsk People's Republic on February 21, 2022, and the immediate invasion of further Ukrainian territory through his troops, Irina an her family had to evacuate their home the following day, leaving everything behind they’ve build up in recent years.

A Letter to Jenna – Episode #01A – Irina

HD, 8:22min

Irina speaks about living in a war zone, Russian propaganda, and her view on the so called Donetsk People's Republic.

A Letter to Jenna – Episode #01B – Irina

HD, 2:23min

Irina roams the area around her home, near the former frontline, twelve days before the devastating invasion of Russian troops.

     View on Metalurhiv Ave, Mariupol city center, February 2022

Diana, cultural activist, fled from her hometown Donetsk during the war in 2014 and then founded a cultural center and platform in Mariupol to help forming artistic practices and critical thinking

A Letter to Jenna – Episode #01C – Diana

HD, 5:35min

Diana speaks about her dilemmas with cultural diplomacy in view of an imminent Russian invasion as well as her experiences in a previous info-war and the methods of Russian propaganda in connection with the self-proclaimed People's Republics in the Donbas. The interview was conducted ten days prior to Vladimir Putin’s formal recognition of the so called separatist People's Republics on February 21, 2022 and the following military aggression against Ukraine. Diana was able to flee besieged Mariupol in early March 2022 in a life-threatening escape through two lines of Russian militaries.

A Letter to Jenna – Episode #01D – Diana

HD, 5:42min

Diana about her state of mind in view of an imminent Russian invasion…

     Sea of Azov, towards the Azovstal metallurgical plant

Mariupol citizens gathering in a public discussion held at the Marine Lyceum, February 2022

Interior view, Marine Lyceum

Mural depicting a personification of all women who were able to break the cycle of violence, created within the framework of the UN’s Violence against Women and Girls in Ukraine program

Boys in camouflage jackets with wooden weapon mock-ups in Mariupol’s Vostochny district, at the reported missile impact site of the 2015 shelling

     Mariupol overview towards the western part of the city, February 2022

Kitchen view, Metalurhiv Ave

Bedroom window with curtains, Metalurhiv Ave

Barbecue, Metalurhiv Ave

Mykhailo, political activist and writer

Challenging identity and ostensible spheres of influence: Russian style toilet paper vs. European style toilet paper

Internet router, Mariupol, February 2022

     Mariupol overview towards the northern Asovmash Metalurhichnyy Kombinat, February 2022

Mariupol City Garden, Donbas 2014 war memorial billboard

Azov Regiment fighters attending a memorial event, February 2022

     Azovstal metallurgical plant, originally established by the Soviets in the 1930s, currently owned by Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Achmetow, became a symbol of resistance in Mariupol. About 2000 troups from the remaining Azov Regiment, including foreign fighters, and up to 1000 civilians [according to ukrainian sources] were said to be entrenching and sheltering in the combinat’s vast bunker system, status 22 April 2022; photographed in December 2021.

Diana, cultural activist, fled from her hometown Donetsk during the war in 2014 and then founded a cultural center and platform in Mariupol to help forming artistic practices and critical thinking

Rocket shelters had been located and signposted all over the city following the war from 2014 onwards

     Mariupol overview towards the Sea ov Azov

Nikolai drives past Mariupol’s former police station, which was already completely gutted during clashes with pro-Russia militants who had seized the building in 2014, and was still a ruin on the street before the Russian invasion; photographed December 2021

Soviet era apartment blocks in Mariupol’s city center

Street lighting

Tetiana works as a lawyer and Human Rights activist for an NGO providing assistance to Donbass conflict-affected persons and IDPs, promoting democratic transformation and Human Rights values in Ukraine. She fled from her hometown Donetsk during the war.

A mural on a building at Mariupol’s Myru Prospekt depicting six-year-old Milana Abdurashytova who became an orphan when her mother was killed during the shelling of the city’s Vostochny neighborhood on 24 January 2015. The painting’s realisation by an Ukrainian artist was financed by the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, belonging to the Ukrainian billionaire and oligarch.

Grigori Beresun, director of the Department for Security at Mariupol City Council, Donetsk Region; photographed December 2021

Azovstal steel production plant

Passengers leaving the city on the night train to Kyiv

This function has been disabled for Jens Schwarz.