The Ukrainian woman married the groom from Chicago before returning home

CHICAGO – If Russia invaded her native UkraineMaria decided she needed to get there and help protect him – even if it meant leaving her fiancé in Chicago a few days after the marriage.

Maria and her fiancé David were married on Saturday to about 20 people in the backyard of a house in Oak Park – a place proposed at the last minute after Maria asked for advice from a nearby Facebook group.

On Monday, she plans to fly to Poland and then make her way to the Ukrainian border, eventually to volunteer to fight for her homeland.

“People are running away, and she’s running away,” said Pamela Chinchilla, a friend of Lambard’s at the wedding.

Seven guests at the wedding brought medicines, masks and other things that Maria took to Ukraine. People hugged, and Maria at one point talked to family members in Odessa.

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Maria, who asked not to publish her name because she feared for the safety of her family in Ukraine and the United States, said she lived with her parents in Kyiv until 1991, when the family moved to Poland.

She met her ex-husband while studying music in Austria, and more than 20 years ago they moved to his hometown of Chicago, which ranks second among U.S. cities, native to Ukraine.

Since the start of the war, she has used messages and calls via Facebook to keep in touch with her parents, who hid in garages during attacks on Ukraine’s largest port city, Odessa. But she said she had not been able to contact her cousins ​​in Kiev in recent days.

Three days after the invasion, Maria decided to return to Ukraine, decided to find some way to be useful. She said she has no medical or military training, but worries that Russia’s seizure of Ukraine will push the country to threaten more places around the world.

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“I have to go,” said Maria, 44. “I can’t hold protests, raise funds, wave flags. We have been doing this since 2015, Ukrainians, and I can no longer. “

Her fiancé refused to stay, despite Mary’s resistance to him accompanying her. But since David first needs to apply for a passport, she plans to leave on Monday and wait in Poland before crossing the border.

“He knows how stubborn I am, and he knew he wouldn’t have a chance to convince me otherwise,” Maria said.

David, 42, said he felt responsible for doing his best to keep her safe.

“Because complacency and compliance are almost the same thing,” he said. “And you can only close your eyes to the people who have been mocked for so long. And if that happens to them, then maybe you’ll be next. “

He also asked not to publish his last name so as not to endanger Mary’s family.

Ukrainian forces outnumber and outnumber weapons, but their resistance has prevented Russia’s quick victory. Ukrainian leaders urged citizens to join the guerrilla war this week as Russian forces occupied the coast and captured one major port city.

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Associated Press journalists found at the border checkpoint Medica in southeastern Poland Ukrainians line up to return from other countries in Europe in recent days in response to President Vladimir Zelensky’s call for volunteers to come to the aid of the country’s military.

Since then, the White House has urged Americans not to travel to Ukraine, but Maria and David have said it has not changed their plans.

The couple met last year, got engaged in October and were already planning to get married in the court building on March 5, in honor of Maria’s grandmother’s birthday.

Deciding that they would try to get to Ukraine, they accepted the offer to hold a celebration in the backyard. They also asked people to purchase things needed by the Ukrainian army, through the Amazon list, which includes rain ponchos, medical supplies and boots, rather than wedding gifts.

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Maria said she was not sure what she would have to do after arriving at the Polish border with Ukraine; friends who live near the border crossings told her it would take days to get through. Her parents also questioned her decision to volunteer, she said, because they didn’t want to worry about her safety in the first place.

“If the army doesn’t take us, we will be as close as possible,” Maria said on Wednesday. “Volunteers are always needed. I’m quite strong, I’m not afraid of blood, it’s good under pressure. “

Natalia Blavelt, Chicago immigration attorney helped dozens of clients who were trying to help the family leave In recent weeks, Ukraine and Russia have said they have not heard of others wanting to come to Ukraine to join the country’s defense.

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But she advised anyone considering it to contact the Ukrainian embassy in the United States and talk to an immigration attorney to discuss plans to return to the United States.

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Photographer Matt Marton contributed to this report.

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