A Love Story From Donbas
15 February, 2017

On the day when sweet couples are filling up places in restaurants and making flower salesmen richer, Hromadske tells a real love story, which has lasted more than half of a century. And it takes place in Donbas.

Though she is 80, her voice sounds clear and sonant. She is sitting near her husband and singing traditional Ukrainian songs. He speaks less – just listening to Nina Vlasivna and sometimes laughing.

“My mother-in-law didn't like me. I don't know why - maybe because of my big mouth,” she says.

They live in a small village called Vilne, in western Donbas. When she was a child she lived through a lot of troubles – the war, Holodomor, father’s death (her mother was left on her own with 9 children). She started to work very early.

“When we were young, we went swimming in a pond with my cousin. She dove in and pulled me into water. This one jumped in and pulled me out. I asked him why he had done this. Did you want to win me over?”–she laughs.

Her husband, Oleksandr Mykolaiovych, humbly smiles.

Nina Vlasivna remembers, how she used to go to the local club, which now serves as a community center.

“We were the best dancers! We [she and her friends] had such nice dresses,” she says while showing photos of her younger self.

“I walked home – so he also went home. He walked me home as a joke. The next day, he did it again, as a joke," she says.

They are sitting in the summer kitchen because they can't heat their house. Houses in this part of Donbas usually are warmed up with coal. There is a mud stove in every home here. After the war, the price of coal increased, and the couple doesn’t have money to buy it. So they had to move into the summer kitchen.

They try not to speak about war. They say they would give up everything for peace. Fighting hasn't taken place in this village; but still, it’s hard to call it safe – there is a military training area nearby. During military training, missiles accidentally hit the yards of the locals.

“I gathered a lot of grain and sunflower seeds... So in the spring, when you couldn’t get sunflower seeds, we loaded 5-6 bags of them in the car and I drove 3 hours to Donetsk. I sold them and then drove back to work at 8 o’clock,” she says.

Her husband laughs at her, while Nina Vlasivna is proud of her сar driving skills.

"When we were working we didn't, but now we do. He doesn’t listen to me! He asks me to give him his pills, and when I do he says, 'Oh, why are there so many? It’s what you’ve been prescribed. He doesn't want them,” she complains emotionally. Oleksandr Mykolaiovych keeps silent, and after a second eventually sums up:

“Ahem, it’s you that doesn’t listen. If only every woman had an obedient husband like me.”

“If only every man had a wife like me!” she responds.

Nina Vlasivna likes singing. She can’t remember where she learnt all those songs. She can only remember that Soviet authorities prohibited praying, so people came home, closed their windows tightly, and then prayed and sang.