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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    Love and war

    Alyona Zaporozhets: “I was sure that I would meet love like the one I photographed”


    АвторAuthor: Yuliya Osadcha | Translation: Nataliia Herasymova Gronskaya

    6 June 2022

    Alyona is the capital’s wedding photographer; Denis is a serviceman. People from completely different worlds are united by love. A story that is being tested by war.

    Yellow and blue, the beginning of a love story

    For ten years, I have been photographing weddings almost every day. I am constantly shooting love. But in my heart, I was lonely. There was some kind of relationship, but it was all not right. I had the belief that there must be such a strong love like the one I photographed. I was sure that I was gaining some understanding with the Universe that this love would definitely meet me. And I found this love six months before the war. We met on October 10 thanks to our cars. Baby “Jetta” and baby “Beetle”.

    He has a dark blue car, and I have an orange one. Symbolically I thought it didn’t happen like that. One late evening, two tired souls were driving down the street and met. Somewhere in the traffic jam, a song was playing that I heard and knew at that moment would change my life. I wanted to understand where the song came from and what the melody was. And we caught up with cars, with open windows and frightened eyes. I said, “You have good music!” The gas pedal hit the floor and I drove off. And he caught up with me. Oh yeah. These were parts of our lives. Our souls brought us together. When we met, Denis told me: I am a soldier. I’m a wedding photographer. We are from completely different worlds.

    He served under a contract. He explained that it will end soon and that he plans to do a completely different job. After all, he was already exhausted. So I realized that I had to wait another six months.

    Separation by war

    We live together in our apartment in Kyiv. Denis served in the city of Vasylkiv the whole time. This is a military town, from which they tried to make a second Bucha and Irpin.

    And so on February 24, at four o’clock in the morning, we woke up from a call. He was told on the phone the phrase “full combat readiness.” When he was recruited, his task was not to run around hugging me but to recruit his entire staff. And while he was calling everyone and getting dressed at the same time, I stood there and didn’t understand what was happening.

    Fateful song

    When Denis called every serviceman, there was no shock or panic, only concentration. The only thing he managed to do was make me coffee. At that time, I did not understand that we would be separated for a long time, because for me, Denis was the closest person. We live together, and he leaves for war. It was very difficult for me to understand because he, as always, wore a uniform. However, there is a big difference between our usual goodbyes and when he tells me, “Do not stand by the windows, sleep only in the bathroom, follow the rules of the two walls.” So he told me what no one was talking about yet.

    He left on February 24 and told me to stay at home. I was left alone and began to understand that the parking lot of our residential complex was crowded, and everyone was leaving Kyiv in a panic. In real life, I’m not a panic-monger. My character was hardened and as if already savvy for the war. I realized that running to the basement, falling and shaking was not a story about me. I knew for sure that I would find my place in the war.

    We’re leaving each other, and I understand that I will not be able to stay alone this time. That’s why my friend and I went to the neighboring village to be as close as possible to Vasylkiv. We lived in it for the first eight days of the war. My logic was that I should be as close as possible to Denis. If something happens, I can come to him by car. From the first second, I realized that there were already two of us. I always tell him that I’m working for two back home, and he is there for two. We needed to learn to live in another world. He already knew how to live in it, so he taught me quickly.

    Every day we had a chance to talk for a maximum of 10 seconds. I understood that there could be wiretapping. They are not allowed to call. He called, said only that he was alive, asked if I was alive, and said that he loved me. This is the only thing we talked about in the first few days.

    Every night Alyona wrote “Notes to a Beloved”, where she shared her thoughts and experiences with him. Then she was sending these notes to the Telegram

    At the beginning of the war, I did not sleep for a whole week until my hallucinations began. I realized that I had never had such a thing in my life. I also understood that everyone had such a catastrophic situation. Everyone kept pressuring me to leave, and I realized that I was not going anywhere. My mother and sister, who were in Cherkasy, really wanted me to come to them. Friends with whom I was in the village planned to go to Transcarpathia every day. Some of our people were leaving. There was a mass panic when no one knew where it was better. The news was spreading very chaotically.

    Denis and I continued to communicate for 10 seconds. A minute. He did not sleep. For four days, he wore the same clothes in which he left home. He never took off his ankle boots. They were defending their positions, protecting Vasylkiv. Then they started shooting the missiles. I saw it all. I understood. And every night when Denis disappeared for two or three hours and I didn’t see him online for a long time, even sedatives didn’t help me.

    Love will conquer all

    I know that there are certain signs in war that are worth believing in and they highlight something to you. We are very religious. Denis constantly wears a cross. He gave it to me, as well as to my “battle beetle”, which transports humanitarian aid every day. He presented an amulet, and I remember going out in the village of Yuriyivka, pulling out an amulet, putting it on my arm, pressing it down like a piece of him, and praying. From that moment on, they withdrew from Vasylkiv and it became easier. When Denis was disappearing, I knew where he was and what he was doing from different people, because I had been bringing everyone to the brink. Denis often asked me, “What are you doing now?” He saw that I was constantly going somewhere, running, constantly doing something. I have 700 dialogues on social media. I told him, “I’ll tell you after the war, you win first.”

    “Love will conquer all.” A video that changed everything

    A few signs and events happened to us that should not have happened, but because of great faith and great love they happened. I was in one place for six days. I didn’t go anywhere. The Kyiv region was stormed from all sides: a landing party was coming, everything was flying, every two seconds it was hovering over us.

    On the sixth day of the war, my friend and I decided that this is our last chance to return to Kyiv and retrieve our belongings.Normally, we drive 10 minutes to the house, but in wartime it takes five hours with traffic jams.

    The day before, when I had to collect the “alarm suitcase”, I collected all my computers, cameras, and lenses, because I thought that was the value. And when I arrived and stayed in the cellar, the value was found in ordinary linen and household items. I also had a sense of guilt that Denis had only had coffee that morning. A military man who knows about missiles forgot to take basic things. So I went home to get the most out of it and went back. Why couldn’t I stay in Kyiv? I was completely alone, and secondly, I did not understand the security of the house where I lived. In any case, everything that was not underground was dangerous.

    My friend and I drove two cars. She went to her home, and I went to mine. We live nearby. When I was already going to Kyiv, Denis called me and said that he was also going to the capital. And I was already in a traffic jam. I could not ask the time, where exactly, which side. During these days, I saw despair in his mood and knew that he desperately needed support. I prayed for him all night.

    Our conversations lasted 30 seconds. It was impossible to say all this. We realized that we were driving on the same highway. He begins to explain that there are only three lanes of public transport: civilians could use the first two, and the third could only be used by special vehicles. Before leaving, the defense warned us harshly, “If someone goes along the military line, you will be punished for it.”

    “It seemed to me that I could have taken the car and carried it in my arms”

    I knew that our lane would move very slowly. We were stuck in traffic for five hours trying to drive three hundred meters. Since military vehicles were constantly driving, we were giving way for a long time, plus they were taking the time to check each car. So I realized that the longer I’m in traffic, the better. After all, Denis will pass faster. And here Denis’ car literally “flies” past us. He calls, and I hear disappointment in his voice. I say “no way”, I’m on the ball.

    In a second, I decided to go. I abruptly drove to the column of military equipment. My friend was just shocked and I read the question in her eyes, “What are you doing?”. I show her that it is necessary and she follows me. At the time, it was a crazy risk.

    For me, the chance to see Denis was much more important. And three more cars in a lane followed us, just like in the movie. Their logic was “if they go, we can go fast too”. I later realized that men with machine guns began to run after us. We just drove much faster than they ran. And so the military lane stopped. Denis’ car stood in a column. Denis got out of the car, I got out of my car, and my friend, who is also a wedding photographer like me, started taking pictures of us. We are used to not missing a single moment. although I didn’t think about shooting anything.

    “My friend filmed our whole meeting—26 seconds. Then I wrote that we do not know how to value our time. I thanked God every second that I had the opportunity to see my loved one. We got some energy from each other; we felt each other’s support”.

    I had to give him a boost and an understanding of what to fight for. I call our meeting a miracle.

    After these few seconds together, Denis ran back to the car. We were in a traffic jam. I saw officers approach the three cars that turned behind us, pull out the drivers and lay them on the floor. They were very angry because of the disorderly conduct.

    At that moment, it seemed to me that I was flying; how strong my emotions were. When men with machine guns approached me, I said, “This was my husband.” They replied, “Have a safe trip.” Since then, he is my husband, not by passport, not by documents, but by feelings.

    The most precious moments together

    We really didn’t want to show off our relationship. We’ve been looking for each other for too long, so we wanted to keep it a secret. I was lonely in life in my own way. Denis was lonely in life in his own way. When we found each other, we really appreciated it. We wanted to keep that feeling to ourselves. This video proved to me that I have no right not to show it. For the sake of women, girls, and mothers who are waiting for their husbands and sons at home, I didn’t expect the video would go viral. More than a million views… at the time, how little good there was.And then messages like “a child was born in the subway”, “a military man met his loved one in the middle of the road” popped up… My audience also started writing to me en masse. And then I realized that I had to carry out a mission.

    A lot of military women started subscribing to me: some asked for advice, some asked for ammunition; everyone needed support more than anything. They saw themselves in me. If I saw my husband, if I could, they could too”.

    I then wrote that if I tell you in detail how we met him, it will be just us, and I really want every woman to meet her loved one. And then it got a massive boost.

    A lot of subscribers came from Nadezhda Dorofeeva, because she reposted my video and signed it “Love will win everything”. And this phrase started to affect everyone en masse, and I saw hundreds of new inquiries and messages every day.

    Every day before going to bed, I wrote “Notes to a Lover” in my notes, where I shared my thoughts and experiences with him. Then I sent this note to the telegram.

    Thanks to cars, we met and you almost said goodbye to life because of the car

    There was another situation: from the first days of the war, I felt that Denis needed a bulletproof vest. The state gave them the most horrible, and I needed the greatest degree of protection-the sixth. It was nowhere to be found.

    On times when there was a curfew for two days and you could not go anywhere, there were two options: stay home and do nothing that immediately disappeared, and the second was to go to the kitchen and cook all day for men to eat. That is, the Armed Forces pick us up by car; we are indoors all day; and we prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 200 people all day. A TNMK member was there with us, and we congratulated him on his birthday.

    I was asking where to get the armor of the sixth degree of protection at the place where I was preparing food. And then the man responded. At first, he offered to exchange it for a pistol with a holster. I just laughed and said, “I think now even armor is easier to find than a pistol with a holster,” and then he gave me another task—to free 300 dogs from the occupied Borodyanka. The woman left the animals to die. At that time, Borodyanka was completely occupied, and it was impossible. Then I just worked, and I didn’t see this man throughout the day.

    “I was doing my job, and at the end of the day, this man came up to me and said, “I see that you are a very good person.” I’ll give you the armor at a net cost. Although the money in the war is nothing”.

    Can you imagine that if I hadn’t gone to cook, I just wouldn’t have gotten what Denis needed so much at the time? I was incredibly happy.

    And here I am carrying armor to my husband, while in the evening, they place concrete blocks in Vasylkiv, which no one warned about. They were not visible at all. There are a lot of questions about the mayor in general. Nobody likes her. And here, literally a minute before our meeting, Denis rams into a concrete block and stretches it two meters. The airbags went off and he miraculously survived. But the car was smashed almost to pieces.

    Denis’ car after the accident

    It was more than a car to him. It was a real friend, thanks to whom we met. This was another huge shock for us. I promised that in a month the car would be running again. Many people helped me financially. A month later, the car looked completely undamaged.

    I said that I want to solve the problems that exist here because I know he can’t

    At that time, I could not recognize my Denis, because due to a total lack of sleep, he was not his own. They mined the fields around the clock and monitored the missile system.

    Now Denis continues to fight in Vasylkiv. And now we are able to restore the psychological state. We welcomed a new member of the family-a cat. The husband sometimes comes home. However, the reason for our meetings is that there are not enough underground places in the military unit, so every three days someone is released so that they can survive. Every time he goes home, it means that someone is exposed to risks while staying in the unit. However, on major holidays, the whole unit must be assembled.

    Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
    Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.

    Why is it important to share this story?
    If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.

    АвторAuthor: Yuliya Osadcha | Translation: Nataliia Herasymova Gronskaya


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