Conflicts & War

Ukrainian couple get married amid war, destruction

By Carles Grau Sivera

Slavutych, Ukraine, Apr 18 (EFE).- Almost two months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kiryl and his partner Xenia have decided to tie the knot, despite the threat of strikes in the northern city of Slavutych, bordering Belarus.

“Life goes on,” they say.

Outside the town hall in Slavutych, encircled and isolated by the Russian troops, a few dozen people holding flower bouquets and bottles of champagne gather to receive the bride and groom.

“We finally deserved a little joy,” those attending the small event tell Efe, stressing they have suffered and cried long enough over the Russian siege.

Linking arms, Kiryl and Xenia come out of the town hall. Their relatives applauding, laughing, kissing and hugging, images difficult to capture in times of war.

“Without a doubt, it is the happiest day of our lives (…) we are in seventh heaven,” Xenia, 24, tells Efe, as people chant at the gates of the municipal building.

Her husband, Kiryl, recalls that he had asked for her hand during the Russian siege, amid the bombardments and the intense fighting in Slavutych.

“It was a very distressing situation, but I decided to ask for her hand because you never know what can happen,” the 27-year-old says.

For Kiryl and Xenia, celebrating their wedding during this conflict is “a blessing” because it is a sign that it is still possible to move forward despite the deaths, displacements and destruction.

“We have to show an example that life goes on, that things as normal and simple as getting married are still possible during the war,” the couple says.

Slavutych was built in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster to replace Pripyat, which became a ghost town after the worst nuclear accident in history took place.

Many of the city’s inhabitants work at Chernobyl, but since Russian forces seized the area and destroyed the main bridge, they stopped going.

Alexander’s last day of work was on February 23. The 57-year-old says he considers himself “lucky” because the Russians “took hostages at the plant” after taking control of Chernobyl.

He, as well as dozens of other residents, have taken to the streets to clean the town.

The isolation has left the city grappling with a shortage of supplies, including humanitarian aid. Pharmacies in the city are still operating, but with more than half of their shelves empty.

Tatiana and Volodimir used to have three pharmacies but they had to shut down two of them because “there was nothing to sell.”

“We are scared to buy merchandise because it is not stable yet. We will have to close this store when we run out of stock,” they explain.

Meanwhile, Ludmela, a dressmaker and the owner of a clothing store, says dozens of people come by the shop every day as a semblance of normality is returning to the city “little by little”.

Ludmela is optimistic, pointing out that “shops are reopening” and some of the 12,000 people who fled Slavutych – more than half of its population – are returning.

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