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"I have never imagined I could love like this at my age"

- the love story of Oksana and her husband Ihor from Azov, who is currently in captivity

Friday, the 198th day of the war

...Every day I come to the flower shop we opened in Lviv. Two friends of mine and I came here from Mariupol, discovered this abandoned grocery store, renovated it, and are now working here. Although there is no furniture yet, I feel very comfortable here. I do not plan to go away, and I really want my husband to be proud of me. We have been together for 36 years. He once brought me to Lviv on our wedding trip, when I saw the city through his eyes for the first time. When he went to the army, it was agreed that I would come here…

I refused so that he could propose to me again

In our time, after graduating from higher educational institutions, there was a thing called "referral to work". I graduated from Nemyrivskyi Construction Technical School and was assigned to work in Kryvyi Rih. Ihor then graduated from the Zhdaniv State Institute as an electrical engineer, located in today`s Mariupol. He also came to Kryvyi Rih on a referral, and our dormitories were nearby..

How did we meet? There was a competition where we represented our organisations, and we met on the bus. After that, he never left my side. .

Apparently, it was love at first sight. I liked him a lot, probably even before we met on the bus. I used to watch him from the dormitory window with my friends. Do you know how girls watch boys from the window? Well, we are so proud. We are girls! We don't allow ourselves to look at the boys directly.

He very quickly proposed to me, in a month or so. I refused at first, not because I didn't want to marry him, but because it was right. I wanted him to propose to me the second time, and he did so about a week later. And only then did I agree. I thought that the third time might not be offered.

Our family is quite standard as for Ukraine. There is my husband and me, an older daughter and a son, four grandchildren, and my stepfather.

I worked in a construction company. Made our Mariupol glorious. We repaired kindergartens, hospitals, schools... I loved my work and did it well, but I never put it first. The most important thing for me is family. Probably, I took after my mother and grandmother.

I am blessed to have my husband. Not everyone is so lucky. Because men tend to be more into work. They think they have to work more, do some business, have meetings, drink beer, watch football, and defend the country...

2014. "Someone has to protect them..."

At first, he was not "Azov". In 2014, he joined the Mariupol force, organised to protect the city. These were patriotic people. Once they captured the city without "Azov" and installed our yellow-blue flag on the city council. The guys managed to do it without military forces. But, I have to say that there were no Russians then... Maybe they were, but not so many. There were more collaborators than Russian soldiers in the city. And then Ihor went to "Azov". As soon as the fighting and offensive began, he voluntarily went to Shyrokino.

I never tried to convince my husband not to go. We have children and grandchildren, and someone has to protect them. My husband is experienced, smart and knows how to do it. Only those who know how to, should fight.

I was always at home waiting for him because he would come once a week. I would wash everything for him, feed him, prepare more food, and then he would sleep in his warm bed. Every wife should do this.

When my husband was awarded for the protection of the city of Mariupol in 2014, he said that it was not only his but also my award. I am very grateful to him.

Battles for Azovstal

Ihor went to the military commissariat on February 24 immediately, as soon as the full-scale invasion started. And already on the 26th, he went to defend our country. The last contact with him was on February 28, but for some time I knew how he was doing.

We live between Azovstal and the Drama Theater and have all of Azovstal in the palm of our hands. And there is a bridge to the left bank, which Ihor was defending with his unit in the early days. And after that, he was performing tasks in Azovstal itself.

I would come every day to that bridge after the loss of connection to find out how my husband was. I didn't talk to my husband because he was on assignments. But I knew that everything was fine because I asked the boys who had walkie-talkies about him. Until some time...

Already on March 17, we could no longer reach the bridge. Our soldiers stopped us 300-400 metres away because a fierce battle was going there. It was no longer Ihor's unit. Before that, I could not come for 4 days because there was massive shelling. When my father and I were looking for a car to leave Mariupol, I wanted to reach Ihor through the boys and say that I was leaving. But it didn't work…..

Guardian angel

Ihor, when going to "Azov", told me "You must understand that you must not surrender. If you surrender, I will also have to. You will not bear it. You will be tortured. You do not need this". That is why we agreed that I will either hide somewhere or leave for Lviv. I promised this to him and kept my word.

After leaving the house, my father and I walked all the time until a boy picked us up in a car about 200 metres from the checkpoint. We were very lucky because we did not know how long we would last walking. In the car, we found out that the boy was going to Zaporizhzhia, and so were we. So we drove, almost non-stop, under fire. And then we got to Lviv.

I think that my father and I have a guardian angel because we survived where it was impossible to survive. Thankfully we did not get a single scratch or injury.

Only the sea

I probably associate our family life and love with the sea... Because everything in life happens in waves, you know? You go through different periods, and some might be colder because life is long. But no matter what the periods are, no matter the troubles, we pass them with dignity. And you understand at some point that this person is still the most precious to you, no matter what happens, because you forgive each other and keep going. That's life...

We made mistakes with him, but we did not lose our tender relationship. Family and love always win.

Two days before the full-scale invasion, which happened on February 24, he met me from work. I was buying things to take home and was a little late. I asked "Have you been waiting for me for a long time"?, and he answered: "All my life...". Can this be forgotten?

I have never imagined I could love like this at my age.


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