Ukrainians Alina Berezova and Stanislav Linevych had only been dating for six weeks when they decided to move in together.
Linevych, 31, who works for a humanitarian organization in Kiev, says she joined Tinder as an act of defiance against the Russians. Berezova, 25, who works in IT, said Linevich’s chubby beagle mix, Archie, attracted her to his profile.
“We have to keep living, we have to love,” Linewicz said, “because only good things can overcome that darkness.”
More than a year since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, millions continue to live their lives, including the search for love, even as power outages, missile strikes and curfews complicate daily life.
For many couples, the war accelerated their relationship, says Tetyana Lovchinska, a psychologist in Kyiv.
“Humans are very social creatures,” he said. “And in war we lose our old ties and our old way of life, and we have to rebuild.”
Lovczynska has seen hundreds of individuals and couples in therapy over the past year and has noticed a trend toward moving in together and reaching other relationship milestones more quickly.
“People understand that we don’t have tomorrow,” he said. “We have it now.”
On their first date, the couple lost track of time and had to rush home to meet the 11pm curfew. Six weeks into their relationship, Kiev and its infrastructure were targeted by Russian missiles and power outages were frequent.
“I had no water, no electricity in the apartment. And it was terrible for me,” Berezova said, sitting next to Linevych on the sofa in their apartment in the suburbs of Kiev.
“I was alone. And when I was with Stanislav, it was more comfortable and relaxed for me.”
The pair teased each other as they recounted their relationship story.
“Alina told me she feels safer when we’re together,” Linevich said. “And it was very important for me to support him and be there for him in stressful moments.”
Lovczynska found that the stress of war is a litmus test for relationships.
“Some couples get even stronger,” she said, because they look at their problems and see how important their relationship is during times of conflict.
For others, the stress of war exacerbates existing divisions.
“All those things that were deep inside, they’re coming to the surface,” he said.
Lovchynska says that the number of weddings in Ukraine increased by 20% last year, but the number of divorces also increased. The main stress is distance. Millions of Ukrainians fled the country at the start of the Russian invasion, mostly women and children leaving behind their husbands and fathers.
“Married couples, families, they are separated,” he said. “And this distance plays a huge role.”
Add in the trauma and stress of war or displacement, and some couples don’t have the emotional energy to deal with their relationship, Lovczynska said.
Yevhe Martynenko, a university student studying history in Kyiv, saw his two-year relationship end last spring after his girlfriend left Kyiv to be with her family.
“Such a distance was very bad for our relationship,” Martynenko said.
In normal times, Martynenko said, she could meet people at work, school or clubs after the breakup.
But amid the war, the restaurant where he worked closed, the school went online for safety, and many clubs were closed due to curfews.
“It was harder for me to meet new people,” she said.
Last summer, she downloaded Tinder and another dating app called Badoo, but she said she had no luck.
“It’s very difficult for me to build a new relationship when you meet a person online,” she said.
However, wedding bells continue to ring across the country.
Marriage in Ukraine is currently limited to heterosexual couples, but the war has added urgency to change. A petition to legalize same-sex marriage landed on President Volodymyr Zelensky’s desk this summer, and he proposed civil unions as an alternative.
Last week, Ukrainian MP presented the draft law on the legalization of same-sex partnerships to the country’s parliament.
An employee at a municipal wedding chapel in Kyiv told The World that a growing number of brides and grooms are coming straight from the front lines, wearing their camouflage uniforms and combat boots as they exchange vows.
In late February, Anna Panasenko and Max Procyk wore a more traditional dress and suit.
The couple, both in their 20s, met two years ago at an illegal party during the COVID-19 lockdown and got engaged six months ago.
Speaking through an interpreter in the lobby of a wedding chapel in Kiev, they said they had initially considered postponing their wedding in the hope that the war would soon end. But as it dragged on, they decided to go for it.
“Especially because there’s a war going on, we don’t want to put our lives on hold,” they said, finishing each other’s sentences as they waited their turn to walk down the aisle.
“We have to go on living, and in all this evil that is happening, we want something good in our lives.”
At the ceremony, friends said the couple’s support during the stress of war brought them closer together.
Panasenko works in a beauty salon, and Protsik works in construction. He said he plans to help rebuild the country as they build a new life together.
When it was their turn to enter the chapel, the couple exchanged vows amid applause and cheers from gathered friends and family, then raised their glasses in a celebratory toast.
Irina Protsyk, the groom’s mother, came to the wedding from her home in a village outside Zaporozhye, where the groom grew up. Now it is about 10 miles from the front line of the war.
“It’s a big contrast,” he said. Soldiers are constantly passing through his village, helicopters are flying overhead, and explosions are heard in the distance.
In Kiev, the couple smiles like champagne in their flutes. The war is on their minds, even on their wedding day, the groom said, but this moment is about celebrating a new beginning.