Irina and Andrey

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How we met: We met on Facebook. It’s kind of crazy because we both have never envisioned ourselves to be “one of those” online couples, yet here we are. Basically, I popped up in his “People You May Know” and he decided to make that click. Who knew that click would go beyond the sound of a mouse. He noticed that I am, like him, in nursing school AND a photographer. Having those two big things in common, nudged him to investigate further so that’s when he started messaging me. I enjoyed talking to him but I was very skeptical. With it being long distance, it was hard to really know what he’s like in “real life.”  He felt the same way. So before summer ended and nursing school started again, we decided to meet. Andrey flew from California to TN for about a week. He flew in really late but we still wanted to see each other. I knew he was starving but everything was pretty much closed this late except for the good old Steak n’ Shake. That’s where we first saw each other face to face and what do you know, it was as if we’ve known each forever! There was an instant connection to add to our already undeniable adoration of each other; sparks flew left and right and our sweet little romance took another step forward.

How he asked: We couldn’t wait for Winter break! By now, our relationship has gotten really serious and we both knew that we were in it for good. We didn’t need much proof, we just knew. He bought me a ticket for Winter break to come meet his family, friends, see where he grew up and to ultimately show me the beautiful state of California.

We both love adventuring. Exploring new and old places, getting lost in the middle of nowhere, spending days out among trees, rocks, and sand were our ideal kind of dates. (Technically, they were all ideal but you get the point.) Halfway through my stay at California, we decided to go see Big Sur. Which I might add, is the most magnificent coastal area I have ever seen in my life! We drove out at around 5am because it was almost 4 hours away from Sacramento where Andrey lives. We wanted to get enough daylight to explore this beauty. Once we arrived we took a million pictures as we hiked around different spots. I was in awe the whole entire day. Everything was so breathtaking and simply stunning.

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Towards the end of the day, we decided to head back and stop to eat somewhere. As we were driving, Andrey got a message from one of his friends telling him that their old friend is in town, in Santa Cruz, so it would be awesome for him to come see the guy. He also implored Andrey to bring me along so they could meet me and they said that they would order pizza. I thought that would be fun since I haven’t had the chance to meet his friends yet. By now it was nighttime and we were on our way to the friend’s house. Lucky for me, I’m a huge just-in-case type of girl so I happened to have extra clean change of clothes with me to change into. As we started pulling up, all of a sudden Andrey got really talkative and hyper which I thought was funny because we were both worn out and hungry. I asked him about it and he said “I just get really excited when I know there’s food!” He told me all about this friend; how they used to be really close when he lived in Sacramento, how they love coming here because his house is in the middle of nowhere, and that he has a cute little adjacent house just for hanging out. As we parked, it was really dark and Andrey said he’ll have to go in and check which house they’re all in because he’s not sure and we had no service in the area. I didn’t think much of it only that I didn’t want to go in the wrong house as my first impression. He left me in the car and I waited. He never came back.

About 3 minutes into the wait, something flickered in my peripheral vision. I looked back to see a light come on. At first I thought it was a porch light but then I saw my name! The rustic, hand-made, wooden post with light over it, said “Ira C’mere.” (Ira is short for Irina in Ukrainian.) That’s when I knew. Suddenly, my heart started beating a million times an hour and butterflies I didn’t know were around, started doing somersaults in my belly. I got out of the car and went to the post. There was a sweet heartfelt letter attached and at the end of it, there were instructions for me to follow the light. There were 3 more of these with each post having a different sign and a letter attached to it. In the letters, he expressed how much I mean to him, how he interprets our past, and how he envisions our future. At the end of the 4th letter I realized there were no more lights to follow. And then I noticed a faint flicker at a distance. I headed that way and as I neared, the whole entire tree lit up and Andrey was standing in the center in a suit looking extremely handsome and a little nervous.

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I was so overwhelmed with emotion and astounded that all THIS was for me I didn’t know how to react and what to say! I was literally speechless! It felt like I was watching a fairy tale. I noticed there were his friends with cameras on the sidelines watching us and all holding their breath– or so it seemed. Everything seemed to go still for a moment as I took it all in. He then got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. “Of course!” was my reply. As we hugged, I was in for another surprise because in that moment, fireworks lit up the sky! We finished the evening with reflections of the incredible event. He later told me that there was no “friend from out of town” and all of that was made up so it would be more believable as to what we’re doing here in the middle of nowhere. He also rented the cabin with the tree and he’s been working on this endeavor for about two months already. And while we were at Big Sur the whole day, his friends have been preparing the place the whole time!  It was a huge bonus on top of already large bonus to have this extravagant proposal captured on photo as well as video for us to have forever.

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Video by: Valentin Sevostyanchuk | Photos by Edward Khoma | Coordination by Andrei Hurzhyi