Anti-bomb sirens can be heard and the bride is camouflaged: in the small village of Druzhkivka, around forty kilometers from the front in eastern Ukraine, two young couples of Ukrainian soldiers said “yes” to each other on Sunday.
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Under the bright sun, the bride and groom’s companions brought bouquets of flowers to the two couples who recently met in the army fighting the near invasion of Russian troops launched on February 24.
One of the two brides, Kristina Lyuta, 23, didn’t leave behind her military paraphernalia: She presented herself in camouflage uniforms and army boots, dressed in a traditional Ukrainian blouse with flowers. “I’ve gotten used to this uniform,” she explains.
Kristina met her husband Volodymyr, 28, two months ago when he was drafted. They lived only five kilometers apart in the Vinnytska region of southwestern Ukraine, but if it weren’t for the war, they might never have met.
“War is war, but life goes on,” says Kristina. Her husband resists any “hasty decision”: “The main thing is that we love each other and want to be together,” he says.
Ukrainian soldiers Khrystyna Lyuta, 23, and Volodymyr Mykhalchuk, 28, were married on June 12, 2022 in Druzhkivka in the Donbass region. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)
The other bride, also named Kristina and also 23 years old, works in military communications and chose a classic white dress with traditional red embroidery. She marries Vitali Orlitch, 23 years old.
“It’s about building a new family. It doesn’t matter where or how it happens,” she says.
The two newlyweds are in military uniform. No family member was present, but the spouses say they understand.
The two couples have to return to the war zone on the same day.
“I can’t give them any free time. The only thing is they won’t be on the front lines. They stay behind,” assures brigade commander Oleksandre Okhrimenko. Thanks to current martial law, he has the right to certify marriages.
Ukrainian soldiers Kristina (2nd from right) and Vitalii Orlich, both 23, along with Khrystyna Lyuta (left), 23, and Volodymyr Mykhalchuk, 28, were married on June 12, 2022 in Druzhkivka in the Donbass region. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)
They all belong to the 14th Separate Mechanized Brigade, which has been fighting Russian and pro-Russian forces in the east since May. The young couples married in front of the local registry offices, which were closed because of the war.
The streets are lightly trafficked and sandbags protect the fronts of cafes and shops.
During the ceremony, the young couples were traditionally wrapped in a patterned towel to symbolize their union. And the military chaplain sprinkled them with holy water and laid wreaths on them.
According to clergyman Yuri Zdebsky, this is the first marriage within the brigade since the conflict began. “It’s war and we don’t have time for big celebrations,” he explained.
Druzhkivka is 40 kilometers as the crow flies from three fronts, with Russian troops threatening the cities of Sloviansk to the northeast, Bakhmut to the east, and Gorlivka to the southeast.
A few hours after the ceremony, AFP journalists noticed shelling in the area and saw gray smoke rising towards Bakhmout against the backdrop of an artillery duel.
While the small town was relatively unscathed by the fighting, in early June houses were destroyed and a shell pierced the roof of a church.
Anti-bomb sirens sounded three times during the ceremony, drawing no response from the war-hardened crowd.