Ukraine Counteroffensive Aims to Bring More Russian Targets Within Range: Live Updates

The groom couldn’t wait to kiss the bride.

He kissed her when she walked down the aisle, and throughout the ceremony. He kissed her after his vows, after hers, and once more after they lastly mentioned “I do.”

Maksym Merezhko, 43, and the bride, Yuliia Dluzhynska, 39, each serve in Ukraine’s army and had traveled to Kyiv the night time earlier than from the jap Donetsk area. They had no time to lose.

After a three-day honeymoon within the Carpathian Mountains, Ms. Dluzhynska mentioned, “We will go to war.”

The celebration was offered freed from cost by Zemliachky, roughly translated as “Women Compatriots,” a charity group that gives uniforms, boots and different necessities to feminine troopers however, due to demand, just lately began to set up their weddings. The couple had been formally married days earlier than, signing a wedding license in a stuffy room in Sloviansk. But they needed a real celebration.

“It takes a lot of time to organize a wedding, and when you are on the front line, you don’t have that free time,” mentioned Kseniia Drahaniuk, Zemliachky’s co-founder.

Everything is donated — the costume, venue, images, flowers, hair, make-up, rings, cake, lingerie and the honeymoon, too — saving {couples} vital expense and the stress of planning.

On the day of her wedding ceremony, earlier this month, Ms. Dluzhynska picked out white peonies for her bouquet earlier than heading to a brightly lit salon.

Wearing a camouflage windbreaker and sipping a “NonStop Military Edition” vitality drink, she emanated composure as two ladies pinned her blonde hair into an updo.

Credit…Laura Boushnak for The New York Times
Credit…Laura Boushnak for The New York Times

“He has never seen me like this,” Ms. Dluzhynska mentioned of the groom. “It is his dream to see me in a dress with makeup on.”

Asked what she beloved most about her soon-to-be husband, she melted.

“Everything,” she mentioned, her eyes welling, sending the beauticians right into a tizzy of touch-ups.

They met three years in the past by way of a relationship web site and have been quickly planning a life collectively. But when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Mr. Merezhko rejoined the army to battle. About a month later, Ms. Dluzhynska adopted, as a medic, to be close to him.

“She left everything and went to war with me,” he mentioned.

At the marriage ceremony, in an occasion area with a roof deck overlooking Kyiv, material azaleas fashioned a white arch. Thirteen white chairs have been organized in neat rows, although the one company have been Zemliachky volunteers.

Ukrainian music performed till the bride began down the aisle in a white, off-the-shoulder robe. Then John Legend’s “All of Me” got here on — and the kisses adopted.

In his vows, Mr. Merezhko drew laughs describing how he had worn soiled shorts to their first assembly.

Everything for the marriage was organized by Zemliachky, a charity group that gives uniform and necessities to feminine troopers, and just lately began to host their weddings.Credit…Laura Boushnak for The New York Times

Her vows have been shorter, beneath a minute, and barely audible.

“When you said: ‘I want to grow old with you,’ I realized that this is great love and this is the man I asked God for,” she whispered, by way of tears.

Even on their big day, the battle was not removed from their minds.

The ceremony ended with a cry of “Slava Ukraini” — Glory to Ukraine! The cake was embellished like a Ukrainian flag. The champagne, a 2021 classic from the ravaged jap metropolis of Bakhmut.

“We will live,” Mr. Merezhko mentioned, beaming after the ceremony. “We will have children, then grandchildren, and we will babysit the grandchildren. I will teach my grandchildren to fish and plant potatoes.”

After their honeymoon, they might head to Donetsk, again towards the entrance line. Mr. Dluzhynska had a less complicated want for his or her future. “The main thing is to survive,” she mentioned.

Stanislav Kozliuk and Daria Mitiuk contributed reporting.

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