Ukrainian couple have dream wedding in UK after bride flees war
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A young Ukrainian couple had their dream wedding in the UK after the bride fled her war-torn home.
Maria Bilyk, 23, left her home in Lviv and walked to the Ukraine-Poland border days after the mass shelling of cities in her country started.
Maria, a primary school teacher, had hoped to marry long-term partner Vitalij Melynik, 27, in Lviv in June.
But the couple finally tied the knot on Monday, November 14, at Hedsor House, a beautiful stately home in Buckinghamshire, after Maria made her way to the UK and was welcomed with overwhelming generosity from Brits.
Maria said: “We’re in complete happiness. Finally it has happened.
“We waited for our wedding for such a long time and on Monday everything was like the stuff of our dreams. It was a fantastic day.
“We’re very grateful. We really appreciate the UK’s help in Ukraine.
“The United Kingdom is very friendly and open for Ukrainians. Almost every day, there is news about financial or military aid for Ukraine. Since my arrival here, I have also felt the moral support from people.
“I’m hearing a lot of kind words, everyone believes in Ukraine, our people and army. I’m seeing Ukrainian flags and other symbols in a lot of different places. It’s great support and means a lot. We really feel that we’re not alone in this war. The people of the United Kingdom are very welcoming to us.”
It took Maria three weeks to get from Ukraine to London. She had to apply for a visa on the way, while she was in Warsaw, Poland.
The teacher, who was born and raised in Lviv, said: “I fled on the third day after the invasion in February. It was very scary back then, I wasn’t even able to imagine what was to come next. The days felt like weeks back then.
“I walked 5km by myself to the checkpoint in Poland. I had tears in my eyes. Border guards cradled children, were giving tea, and fed those who needed it. There were clothes for adults and children, strollers, toys, and hygiene products. Everything for people who ran away, ran without simple things. Volunteers asked about our condition, offered help. I was amazed by such human kindness.”
Vitalij, who is a gardener, moved from Ukraine to the UK around 10 years ago and met Maria when she was visiting in 2018. They maintained a long-distance relationship since, including through the global COVID-19 pandemic.
When Maria and Vitalji were reunited following the war, they encountered Bridebook, a wedding planning app and venue finder.
The company spent five months completing legal work with the Foreign Office and Buckinghamshire Council to secure the couple their dream day, an intimate affair at the stunning Georgian mansion.
But while Maria and Vitalji, who now live in Feltham, west London, are grateful for the help they’ve received, they’ve reflected on the conditions in their homeland.
Maria said: “My message to Ukrainians is to stay strong and believe in our victory every day. Remember all of the support we’re receiving from the world.
“Wherever you are, just help Ukraine with whatever you can. My message to the people of the United Kingdom and people of other countries in the world, who are helping us, is simply ‘thank you’. It might be difficult to realise how important your help is and what kind of trouble you are saving Ukrainian people from.
“To be honest, this February has shown us that any plan could be changed at any moment. So we just want to live happily together, make a family and support Ukraine.
“The UK after all is a really beautiful place. There are so many amazing places to see. I’m really looking forward to exploring it more.
“There are a lot of kind and open people. We are grateful to every citizen in the and every family in the UK for the help and support.”
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