Woman who fled Ukraine weeks after her wedding now living in Red Deer

The newlyweds, Kristina Zyma and her husband, are seen smiling in photos as they tie the knot after being together for ten years. But this isn’t the wedding the couple had hoped for, one in the midst of a war.

“It’s kind of a romantic and sad story at the same time,” said Zyma.

In early March, the couple drove two days to western Ukraine to get married after fleeing from Kiev.

“We arrived early in the morning. We slept for a few hours, and woke up, and just went directly to the office for registration…no preparation, no wedding dresses, you don’t think about it in that moment,” said Zyma.

“We wanted to go there to make it official because who knows what will happen…we did it to be official, to be connected, to show we are family.”

The couple then discussed leaving the country. Zyma’s husband encouraged her to apply for a visa to Canada. No time for a honeymoon, or even a ring, weeks after their wedding, they were separated. Her husband stayed in Ukraine. He is banned from leaving the country in case he is needed to fight in the war.

Zyma travelled to Warsaw to apply for a visa to Canada. She was approved and in early April she flew to Red Deer.

“Red Deer, specifically, because my friends live here. Family of my friend who I came here with, they live here, so they supported us a lot and they helped us to find a place,” she said.

For Zyma, coming to Canada has been bittersweet. She’s glad to be safe, but she’s constantly reminded of the conversations the couple would have of visiting Canada together.

“It’s hard every time when I think about it. We were thinking about coming to Canada some day, trying to work here, not moving maybe, but trying to work here. So when I think about it, it’s kind of a dream come true, but it’s without him. So I can’t share these emotions with him,” she said.

Although they are not together physically, Zyma said she speaks with her husband every day and tells him about the similarities between Red Deer and Ukraine.

“I always think about Ukraine,” she said. “Here is the river, not far from the place that I live now, and it reminds me of the Dnieper, it’s the river in Kiev.”

Zyma worked as an English tutor in the Ukraine and is currently looking for a job in Red Deer. She’s optimistic that one day she’ll be able to celebrate her wedding day the way the couple intended.

“In my dreams, it would be great to have a celebration with my family, with his good friends. Definitely in Ukraine. Definitely there. Just hoping there is peace and that they all are safe.”