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13 Aug, 2007 03:38

Wartime lovers reunited in Russia

It's an age old story. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, he asks her to marry him. Normally though, it takes less than 60 years.

But in the city of Krasnoyarsk there's a Russian man and a German woman who've waited a lifetime for the chance to finally be together.

Ivan Byvshikh has loved Lisa Waldhelm since he was 21-years-old but it took six decades before he could finally put this ring on her finger. And it still excites him so much that he feels fifty years younger.

'We're just like a newly married couple. I'm twenty eight now and, oh no wait, I wish I was twenty eight. You'll have to change those numbers around!' admitted Ivan Byvshikh, WWII veteran.

They may still only be engaged but after nearly 60 years without each other Ivan and Liza are taking their honeymoon early.

They spend every moment together, whether it's appreciating some of the more stylish ways to travel in Krasnoyarsk or remembering victims of the war that first brought them into each others lives.

They met shortly after Germany's surrender in 1945 when Ivan was a soldier and translator in the Soviet army.

He was appointed peacekeeper commandant of Liza's village and the two quickly became inseparable, before politics tore them apart.

It was an offence for a Soviet soldier to marry a German girl and 6 months later, Ivan was forced to leave the region without her.

Just hours after his train had left her village station Ivan found a letter from Liza in his coat pocket – it told him she was pregnant.

Unable to go back to Heriode, Ivan risked treason charges, writing Liza dozens of letters.  Many of her replies were lost or delayed.  He only found out that their baby had died 18 months after it had happened.

They continued to write for 10 years, but in 1956 Ivan was ordered by his local party committee to find himself a Russian wife and give up on Liza for good. Threatened with prison, Ivan reluctantly obeyed.

He married twice but neither relationship lasted.  His children grew up and moved away and Ivan was alone for nearly 30 years.

But his family and friends knew that his feelings for Liza had never died and just a few years ago, they decided to do something about it.

One of Ivan's friends had gone to live in Germany and after a long hard search, managed to get in touch with some of Liza's relatives. She had moved to Luxembourg, but she'd never forgotten her young Russian soldier.

“The telephone rang in January 2005 and I heard Liza's voice. I couldn't stop the tears. I was so happy and I finally knew she'd forgiven me. It was the last time I cried,” confessed Ivan.

Just a few month's later Liza's plane touched down in Krasnoyarsk and after more than half a century apart, the lovers were united again. Their lives changed in an instant.

“I recognised him immediately although I told him he'd put on a little weight.  It was one of the happiest moments of my life,” said Liza Waldhelm.

“The moment I saw her, I knew she loved me like it was still 60 years ago. We embraced and we haven't let each other go since,” remembered Ivan.

Now Liza lives for half the year with Ivan in Krasnoyarsk. They're still waiting for all the relevant documents so that they can finally get married but they know that every moment they have is precious and they're making the most of them.