(From left to right) Alex Ivanova (26) and Andrei Ivanov (28).

Andrei Ivanov (28) and Alex Ivanova (26), a newly married Russian couple, hope and pray that the war between Russia and Ukraine ends soon so that their dreams can take flight.

By: Nomita Dhar

Andrei Ivanov (28) and Alex Ivanova (26), a newly married Russian couple, hope and pray that the war between Russia and Ukraine ends soon so that their dreams can take flight. What does the war mean for newlywed young Russians such as Andrei and Alex, who stand at the threshold of a new life full of aspirations? How has this situation affected them? I met the duo as they were on their way back to Russia after living in Asia – Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and Korea – over the last six months. They had left Russia, like their other friends, when the Russia-Ukraine War started heating up.

“How did you meet?” I ask. They smile, and their eyes shine with the glow of young love. “We were connected through Tinder,” they respond. These lovebirds got married in June 2022 and went off for their first holiday to Turkey.

As newlyweds, it was no surprise that they had aspirations for a good life and a bright future. However, many things changed along the way. “I had seen a very beautiful and expensive wedding gown, and we had booked a fancy place as the venue where we wanted to invite many of our friends and relatives and have a big wedding. But we toned it down as there was so much uncertainty because of the war,” says Alex, the young wife.

Technology has been their savior in these intervening months in Asia as it enabled them to work remotely and hold onto their jobs back home. As they head home to Russia, Andrei shares, “However, working remotely forever is not an option. You cannot be on top of your career like this.”

As an early investor, Andrei had already bought a flat on the outskirts of Moscow, which they have rented out. “We are happy to pay the mortgage through the rental money in these tough times,” he says. But while leaving Asia, home did not seem to be the right place to take flight. “We hope we can migrate and work in other countries, where there is peace and a prosperous future for us,” he says.

Having studied world religions, they have an open mind and holistic and spiritual approach to life. “War is not good karma,” is their shared belief.

I ask, “What is Karma?” The response is quick and firm from both of them: “It’s like a debt you accumulate if you don’t improve the balance of good deeds, and you get caught in the web.”

They believe their return home will be a big surprise for their parents, who are still living in Russia. “Our parents miss us, so we are going back – but the joy would certainly have been doubled if there is peace in Russia,” they say.

“When asked if things have changed for them as Russians when they travel abroad?” they respond, “Initially, not really, but now more so. Our credit cards get declined, and if the war does not stop, things will most certainly get worse,” they say.

When asked what would be the first wish in their minds if they had their way? “The end of the war, of course,” they reply in tandem, “And to improve the ‘Karma’ for Russia, our beautiful country which we call home!”

Andrei is of the opinion that “The war is unnecessary and not a good thing at all.” He wishes, like all ordinary citizens whose lives have been affected, for the war to end and peace to be restored as quickly as possible. He fervently believes that dialogue, maintaining the pre-war status quo, and giving back Ukraine land are some solutions for returning to peace.

On the home front, as the war continues, Russian men have been called to serve in the army. A recent government regulation requires that all able Russian males return home and serve the nation. “There are A, B, C, D categories for these men,” says Andrei, who is a category ‘A’. Touching his muscles, Alex adds but with a sense of humor, “Maybe we can break his leg for him to avoid being called up!”

Andrei, who also plans on having a successful business of his own, feels that the new regulations by the IT ministry can open up several doors for people like him. “Many international companies in the IT sector have moved out of Russia, so there is certainly space for us to create something new and profitable.” He has a deferment till September 2023, but he shares, “I am a diehard optimist, and my company will take off by then.”

Andrei reveals that many of his friends have moved to different countries to avoid being called back. The couple had left Russia in October 2022 when things were getting intense on the war front. The tension and uncertainty also affected the relationship between Andrei and Alex, but these six months, they agree, have turned things around for them personally.

When I ask them what the best thing that has happened to them is, looking into each other’s eyes, they chuckle and break into Russian. Andrei gives her a hug and says, “Alex is the best thing that has happened to me!”

Alex, who has maintained her limitations with English during our conversation, says in one uninterrupted sentence, “The best thing is the change in me; I am a happy and contented person – I have found a new me in these six months!”