Ali and Alla Kerimov
He’s a soldier with the 30th Mechanized Brigade, awarded the Order “For courage” (III degree), a patriot and a real man. He fought and was wounded in Debaltseve, underwent dozens of operations.
She’s his wife – his faith, hope and love.
They are quite different. Alla is temperamental, emotional and impulsive. Ali is reasonable, logical and well-balanced. But, they’ve been together for ten long happy years. They married in 2010, and now have a little princess – a daughter Alisa.
When Russian troops occupied the Donbas, Ali volunteered to defend their Homeland.
Alla followed the news every day. She became restless, prayed and waited. Ali called or texted as mortars and grenades exploded around him.
On February 14, 2015 Ali sent a message: “All is well. I love you very much.” He was seriously wounded that day.
Ali’s comrades-in-arms risked their lives and evacuated him to Artemivsk. He had several operations in Kharkiv and Kyiv.
His family stayed with him. Together they took long walks and laughed; Ali learned to jump around on one leg and walk on crutches. Now he’s home. The past year was extremely difficult for the family.
Oleksiy Kondrashov and Iryna Dudnyk
He’s a soldier with the 40th Territorial Defense Battalion. He was mobilized with his brother and fought in Ilovaisk.
She’s a volunteer and has been to the ATO zone many times. She delivered humanitarian aid to soldiers, children and adults in the Donbas and helped the wounded in hospitals.
Oleksiy suffered serious injuries when retreating from Ilovaisk, and was taken prisoner. Fortunately, he was liberated and returned to Kyiv. He met Iryna after an operation.
She smiles and recalls how fast her heart started beating when she first entered his hospital room, how happy she was driving her “100-kilos of joy” in a wheelchair along the Khreshchatyk.
When Oleksiy flew to Romania for rehabilitation treatment he asked her to wait for him. They got “serious” when he returned.
They’re currently helping wounded soldiers in hospitals and collecting aid for children in orphanages in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.
Iryna admits that Oleksiy has given her the most wonderful gift in the world – love and happiness!
Iryna and Dmytro “Dim DIM” Bondar
He’s a volunteer soldier with the 95th Air Brigade. He fought at Sloviansk, Lisichansk, Karachun and Donetsk Airport.
She’s his beloved wife.
They’ve had ten happy years. Dmytro caught Ira’s eye immediately and was subjugated by her first gourmet dish – rabbit in sour cream. There were flowers, songs, gentle words and lovely endearments. A beautiful daughter, Veronika, was born.
Then came the undeclared and useless war. He fought in many hot spots, and she waited, prayed and believed.
Dmytro was wounded at Donetsk Airport. As soon as he got in touch with his wife, she started packing her things.
– Where to go? Where to look? Who cares! I just had to go! To see him! I wanted to hug him closely, shield him from the world. The war was over for us; he was finally mine! He was alive, and I’ll fight for his life! Fight to the end, because I’ve loved, love and will always love!
Oleksandr and Yuliya Klevtsov
He’s an artillery gunner with the 128th Mountain Infantry Brigade. He fought in Debaltseve and is now demobilized.
She’s a volunteer, helped the 3rd squadron, where Sasha served.
They were united on July 28, 2005, when Sasha offered Yulia the sun, sky and the world.
Sasha surprised his wife on her birthday. Despite the war and distance, she received a huge basket of flowers with a hand-made heart from Debaltseve.
The past two years have been extremely difficult for the couple, but they are back together – husband and wife and the best of friends!
Illya Serbin and Yuliya Mykytenko
He’s a reconnaissance scout (first with the 54th, then with the 131st Reconnaissance Battalion). He was at Chermalyk, Pavlopil and Granitne. For her, he’s just a “bearded guy in uniform”, “a cute soldier”.
She’s a student and activist with “Vidsich”, daughter of a National Guardsman.
They met by chance, started talking, and knew they were meant for each other.
At Easter 2015, Yulia packed her suitcase and went to see Illya in Mariupol. She returned home engaged. They got married later in the Carpathians.
They don’t remember who proposed first. But, they’ve never forgotten the day Illya came home from the front – instead of a machine gun, flowers and oranges in his hands; a rainy but peaceful sky above.
They’re a little over 20, but they know about love and war. They’ve lived through so much, and yet life is just beginning!
Andriy Drozdov and Olena Pniovska
He’s a pilot who’s served in the Armed Forces of Ukraine since 1998. He’s worked as a Mi-24 technician since 2003, and completed two UN missions in Liberia, the Ivory Coast and Congo.
She’s been engaged in international business all her life. She likes to say that Andriy chose a very original way of meeting – he literally fell from the sky!
His helicopter was returning from the frontlines, but crashed on the outskirts of Kyiv. He was wounded and taken to hospital where Olena was working as a volunteer.
They immediately felt a mutual bond, but began seeing each other regularly after Andriy was transferred to another hospital. They met every day, sat up till late, talked, joked and laughed.
They’ve been together for a year. Although they’re separated by several hundred kilometers, they know that very soon they’ll be together forever.
Yuliyanna and Oleksandr (“The Czech”)
He’s with the Aidar battalion; he’s fought in all corners of Luhansk Oblast.
She’s a volunteer at the Irpin Military Hospital.
He started on the Maidan, and then joined the volunteer battalion. On September 5, 2014, the 2nd squadron of the 24th Aidar assault battalion was ambushed on the road between Shchastia and Metalist. Only three men survived, and Oleksandr was one of them.
He was wounded and suffered severe burns. But, he returned to the front. In February 2015, he got a second concussion.
That’s when they met at the Irpin Hospital. Yulia brought food and clothes for the “newcomers”. They talked and Yulia hugged Sasha. He hugged her back and didn’t want to let go.
He proposed to her after the second meeting. She couldn’t find him at the hospital and left him a note: “Yulia, your future wife”.
A month later, Oleksandr returned to the hospital for rehabilitation. As soon as he was discharged, he took Yulia with him and went directly to the registry office. The next day they became husband and wife
Serhiy and Iryna Pryymak
He’s a soldier with the 90th Battalion, a Cyborg who fought at Donetsk Airport. He was mobilized in summer of 2014.
She’s a businesswoman, his wife, his support and most loyal fan.
They met and fell in love before the war. Serhiy joined Iryna’s business company.
They had a civil marriage, but when war broke out, Serhiy and Iryna got officially engaged and married.
Serhiy left for the front; Iryna helped him and his comrades as much as she could, collecting things that were needed at the front, sparing no expense and engaging friends in her aid projects.
When she learned that Serhiy had suffered numerous injuries and contusions, when he’d almost lost his sight and could barely move, she rushed to the front lines.
The worst thing was still ahead – Serhiy was diagnosed with cancer. Today, this incredible couple is waging another war – against the disease. The struggle for life, for love, for their family and their little angel – a son called Myroslav.
Ihor and Olena
He’s a soldier in the 93rd Mechanized Brigade; he fought at Pisky and Vodyane.
She’s his “little cherry blossom”.
They maintain they’ve been together for 8000 years because one year counts for a thousand. He’s hopelessly “in love” with cars; she can’t imagine a life without travelling.
They’re from Eastern Ukraine. The war separated them – Olena went to Kyiv and Ihor to the front to defend Ukrainian lands from the aggressor.
Eighteen months of waiting, worrying and suddenly… a call: “I hit a mine.”…. She was there immediately to help him get back on his feet… and be together forever.
Anastasiya Borodenkova and Pavlo “Delfin”
He’s a soldier with the Donbas Battalion.
She’s a volunteer.
He’s fought at Horlivka, Popasna, Triokhizbenka, Pisky, and Shchastia and continues to serve.
For two years she’s been tirelessly helping our soldiers. The phone rings all day – calls from hospitals, doctors and wounded soldiers. She travels regularly to the front.
They’ve lived through grief, pain, loss and the war to save each other and face a whole new world!
Their love story began on New Year’s Eve. They spent it with close friends, volunteers and soldiers, but also quietly with each other.
They’ll be going to Los Angeles for the Oscar awards ceremony. Pavlo is one of the founders of the studio that produced the Oscar nominee – Winter on Fire!
Nazar and Yevheniya Barylko
He’s a soldier with the 24th Mechanized Brigade.
She’s a volunteer, the daughter of a military officer.
On October 10, 2014 near Shchastia, four bullets pierced Nazar’s thigh; the leg had to be amputated above the knee. They met at the Kyiv Military Hospital where Nazar was undergoing rehabilitation.
Nazar made a wish on his birthday – to find a soul mate. He saw Zhenia in the corridor and when she accidentally opened the wrong door and entered his room, he knew immediately that he’d never let her go.
– “When we met, I really didn’t care whether Nazar had a leg or not. I saw a very brave, good-looking guy. I love his strong willpower. When we started going out, I realized that he was my heart and soul.”
Zhenia introduced Nazar to her son Vanya, and Nazar realized that this was the family he’d always dreamed of.
– “After getting out of the hospital, I started to write my memoirs .I write together with my beloved Zhenia who supports me and comforts me when I start thinking about the war, covers me with love, care and affection. I realized that I could be happy again, despite the war and my injuries.”
Liudmyla and Eduard Maliovani
He’s a professional soldier who served in a peacekeeping mission in Yugoslavia, and lived through the wars in Sierra Leone and Iraq.
She’s his faithful beloved wife.
They’ve been together for 25 years.
When the war broke out in the Donbas, Eduard was in the reserves for health reasons. He volunteered, but was refused. He decided to stand in protest before the Ministry of Defense.
When he was wounded he told Liudmyla not to worry, that it was just a scratch and he’d soon be home in Kyiv.
She saw him just before the operation – his face and eyes were covered with bandages. Then… five hours under the scalpel. She tried not to think, but just loved, believed and prayed.
They finally decided to get married. They’ve raised three children, have grandchildren, but still call each other “my little princess” and “my sweetheart”. They know that they want to live another lifetime of happiness.
Project concept: Yuliya Volkova
All photos courtesy of Ihor Palamarchuk