While Ukraine was stormed by Russia’s all-out war, two Ukrainians found love in the darkest place and turned their war woes into wedding vows.
Kyiv’s chief policeman, Yuriy Zozulia, and the head of news at Ukraine’s public broadcaster Suspilne, Angelina Kariakina, announced their marriage on 2 March, just a week after Moscow fully invaded Ukraine.
Angelina and Yuriy are not the only Ukrainians to have gotten married since 24 February. Around 25,000 couples have tied the knot over the last two months, according to the ministry of justice. Most of them didn’t wear traditional wedding attire.
The creation of new families in Ukraine shows that the nation is planning its future post-war, despite Russia's attempts to destroy the country.
Angelina recounted to GS News her story of love and marriage in a time of war.
“I’ve been a journalist for more than 12 years. I worked in print media, and started in TV journalism as a correspondent for Euronews in Kyiv. Later I worked for Hromadske, an online TV channel, covering the trials of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia (like those of director Oleg Sentsov and activist Oleksandr Kolchenko), the migration crisis in the EU, and conducting investigations into the crimes of the Euromaidan Revolution.
Since 2020, I’ve been part of Suspilne, where I now manage news. In 2020, I also co-founded the Public Interest Journalism Lab in partnership with the Arena Program at Johns Hopkins University, the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research and Lviv Media Forum. The lab is engaged in in-depth research on the impact of journalism in the digital age.
My husband has been a police officer for seven years. He studied in Poland and worked in investment consulting. When the Euromaidan Revolution started, he came to Kyiv and took part in the protests. Knowing him, I understand that he wouldn’t have it any other way. He started his police service, like thousands of other volunteers, full of desire and enthusiasm to change the country. Since 2015, he has served as the head of Kyiv Patrol Police.
I have been covering police reform and investigations for a long time. Yuriy was one of my story subjects, and that’s how we met. At first we talked a lot, became friends, and then started developing feelings. We both had families at the time. It was very difficult, but I am very happy that we met.
How did the war catch us? In a sense, we were preparing for it, but, of course, it was difficult to imagine it at such a scale and level of cruelty, with the violence and cynicism of Russia. My husband bought ammunition, we purchased canned food that we then distributed it to our relatives. On the night of 24 February, my husband was on duty for several days in a row. I was also working tirelessly for several days on end, waking up at 2-3 a.m., checking the news. That night I woke up to Putin's so-called address, during which, or immediately afterwards, explosions started happening in Kyiv. I called my husband, grabbed the go-bag, we met, talked about our action plan, and I went to work. By 7 a.m. I was already running a live news broadcast. Since then, we had not slept at home for weeks.
[Yuriy and Angelina's house is located in the territory that was occupied by the Russian troops. After the liberation of these territories, Angelina wrote that their house was broken into, looted, with their belongings stolen or damaged by bullet holes, - ed.]
What do we do during the war? We work. I am in charge of a news team working across the country. I also prepare stories myself. My husband runs the Kyiv Patrol Police Department, which has rebuilt its work during the war. We try to be together all the time, doing everything to speed up the victory. But even during the war, we wanted to do something that would stay in our memories for the rest of our lives.
We were already engaged, planning a wedding in the spring or summer so that it would be warm enough to celebrate outdoors with friends. It is difficult to explain why we decided to wed right now. It felt right. We found out which registry office worked and got wedding rings from jewellery designer Lena Yastreb. She specifically opened the shop for us and gave us the ones that we liked.
We went together and registered our marriage. Then we invited a few friends, including my husband’s supervisor. The head of the patrol police of Ukraine, Yevhen Zhukov, arranged the entire ceremony for us. I was wearing regular pants and a sweatshirt, which I now call a wedding dress. The husband's close friends organised a small celebration for us at the oldest concert hall in Kyiv, which now operates as a round-the-clock volunteer centre. They happened to find a veil that they gave to me. My friend brought home-grown orchids. This was my bouquet. It is still in bloom in my husband's office.
My husband's supervisor gave us a hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher, and Yuriy's brother gave us ammunition and men's pants. These are very important things during the war. We are planning another celebration, but friends from different walks of life also promise to organise some separate weddings for us. We have already counted five such wedding celebrations that we would owe to different groups of friends.
We already know where our honeymoon will be spent – no foreign countries, only Ukraine, on Kinburn Spit. We spent a lot time travelling there with friends, and we can’t imagine summers without it.”
*The author of this article is writing under a pseudonym.
Read the original Ukrainian version of this article here.