Love bliss in Siberia after 60 years of separation
After sixty years apart a former Red Army soldier tracked down his wartime German sweetheart. It was love at first sight when they met in 1945 in Germany, but the aftermath of the war meant it was not to be.
Their love traveled across enemy lines and survived sixty years of separation, and they tied the knot last year in their eighties.
One year ago Liza Waldhelm moved from Luxemburg to Krasnoyarsk. She is 83. She speaks no Russian at all. Even straightforward tasks prove arduous.
“I walk around the shops like a little girl, with a bit of paper on which everything is written down in Russian. It's easier in the big shops – at least you recognize the brand names,” said Liza.
In the months after the end of World War II, Ivan Byvshykh was a Red Army commandant of a small town in Turingia. Liza Waldhelm was the daughter of wealthy parents.
They say they fell in love at first sight, despite disapproval from both sides.
Inevitably, Ivan was soon ordered to return to Siberia. On the train back he opened a letter from Liza, which told him she was expecting his child.
Their daughter was stillborn. They wrote for years, until the KGB instructed Ivan to stop.
Both Liza and Ivan eventually got married to different partners, but they were never truly happy.
After years of fruitless searching, Ivan eventually tracked Liza down in 2005. Three years later they wed.
“If I do not understand something I ask her twice. The problem is she has an accent I do not understand. If she writes stuff down then I know the words. I want to re-learn German again, but my memory isn't so good any more,” confesses Ivan Byvshykh.
Ivan and Liza live in a comfortable apartment – a gift from the region's governor.
Liza has not been here the whole time, as she had to travel back home from her honeymoon after developing blood pressure problems. She is now settled permanently, but admits she has few friends in the city.
Most days the couple goes on long walks mapped out for Liza by Ivan.
He writes down the route of every one. In fact, Ivan has written thousands of pages detailing his daily life, and keeps every letter and email he has ever received, as well as publishing over twenty manuscripts.
“I used to live alone, and I was able to spend all my time on my writing. Now, I don't have as much. I am spending this time on Liza. I have stuff I have to finish, but I can't just let her sit there and be bored,” admits Ivan.
“I spent 40 years living in Luxembourg. My life here is different, but I am happy with everything,” says Liza.
Although the two will not say so, the biggest regret for Ivan and Liza may not concern their time together, but the decades when they were apart.