Womans marriage proposal from fiancé now missing in Ukraine

A young woman from eastern Ukraine whose missing fiancé proposed to her during the bloody last stand of Mariupol has described the heartache of waiting for his return. Afonia Alina, 23, told Express.co.uk she burst into tears after receiving an unlikely call from her boyfriend – a military doctor from the Azovstal battalion – from the front line in Mariupol in March 2022.

Ms. Alina, from Slovyansk, in the Donetsk region, said: “He made a marriage proposal to me when he was at the Azovstal [steel] plant. By some miracle, he was able to call me. And on the phone he asked me ‘Will you marry me?’

“I burst into tears and said ‘Yes, of course! But [I told him] later you will ask me again while on one knee in front of me’.”

But the couple are yet to be reunited. Her fiancé and 900 other fighters were captured from the Azovstal steel plant in May by Russians.

More than 2,000 fighters, including British national Aiden Aslin, had been making a last stand to protect the city from Russian attack.

“It was not like in romantic movies or from fairy tales, it was a marriage proposal during the war… not a sweet story with a happy ending,” she said.

“For more than a year now I have been waiting for him to repeat his question.”

She added: “I don’t know where my boyfriend is since September. During all this time no one saw him, I only know that he was taken away from Olenivka and I don’t know if he is alive at all.”

Since they were captured from the Azovstal plant, only a handful of Ukrainians, including humanitarian volunteers have returned home from Olenivka.

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First-hand accounts by prisoners describe suffering torture and murder at the hands of the Russians in the prison colony.

In July 2022, dozens of Ukrainian soldiers were burned to death while in captivity.

Ms. Alina added: “It was announced that they would be guaranteed safety and returned home, but after two months we saw a terrorist attack in Olenivka.”

She said she knows of a young man who died a few months after returning home because “his heart could not stand it.”

Since her fiancé went missing, Ms. Alina said she has bought herself a ring “as a symbol” of their love.

She added: “The saleswoman said a week before my purchase, the woman bought a piece of jewellery from her and made a wish, and a few days later her husband returned from captivity, he was also at Azovstal.

“This [sales]woman did not know that my fiancé was in captivity, she simply told this story and said that wishes come true here.

“After her words, I burst into tears and bought a ring that I wear every day and wait for my wish to come true.”

Ms. Alina first met her fiancé in 2016 when they became friends and fell in love. By 2020, they were living with each other “learning to not fight over dirty dishes”.

She added: “I am sure that those hundreds of people whom he saved from death will never forget him, because they continue to live thanks to him.

“But I am very scared, now our country is losing the best, and he is one of the best sons of his country.

“I am very afraid of never seeing him again, I am afraid of what they do to him in captivity.

“I think that I will not be able to survive his loss, we are too close and I have no idea how to live on, because we have so many plans that we have to do together.”

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