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PICTORIAL STORY

February 2, 2024

ON THE TRAIL OF LOVE LOST

Photography and story by Sasha Ivanov
Introduction by Melanie Meggs

Sasha Ivanov is not just a documentary photographer; he is a storyteller. Through his lens, he captures the lives of ordinary people and transforms them into extraordinary tales. Hailing from the beautiful city of Krasnodar in southern Russia, Sasha’s journey as a photographer began at a young age. But it was not until he moved to St. Petersburg and pursued higher education in journalism that he found his true calling in documentary photography.

His passion for capturing the essence of society led him to participate in various social projects as a photojournalist. But it was after he completed a documentary photography course at Docdocdoc’s School of Contemporary Photography that he truly found his voice as an independent documentary photographer.

Through his photography, Sasha captures the raw emotions and realities of individuals and communities, shedding light on important societal issues. He has a special interest in the portrait genre, capturing the essence and stories of people from all walks of life.

Sasha shares the heartwarming story of Lydia and Nikolai, a couple who met at a dance in October 1957. After four months of meeting, they tied the knot. Just nine months later, they welcomed their daughter into the world. What began as a serendipitous encounter, soon blossomed into a lifetime of love, companionship, and overcoming challenges together. Lydia, or “Lidochka” as her husband fondly called her, was a teacher. While Nikolai was a military engineer. Together, they lived a happy life in the Soviet Union and witnessed the tumultuous era of ‘Perestroika’ (a significant political reform initiative that emerged in the late 1980s within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union). As they approached retirement, they took up writing as a new passion. Lydia wrote poetry, and Nikolai wrote humorous opuses.

Unfortunately, in 2018, Lydia suffered a serious knee injury that left her unable to walk independently. But her devoted husband, Nikolai, took on the role of caregiver with unwavering love and dedication. He cooked, bathed, and exercised with her, determined to see her recover. And for two more years, they continued to live side by side, until Lydia passed away. Together, they had spent 62 years of love, laughter, and companionship.

Now, at 88 years old, Nikolai is learning to live independently after spending the majority of his life by his beloved Lidochka’s side. Through Sasha’s photo essay, we are given a glimpse into their extraordinary love story and the unbreakable strength and resilience of the human spirit.

Join us as we explore Sasha Ivanov’s heartfelt tribute to Lydia and Nikolai.

SASHA IVANOV

I met Nikolai and his wife, in 2018. Lidochka, as her husband affectionately called her. By that time, she had already suffered a knee injury and could not move around on her own. I worked as a volunteer for a foundation that supports World War II veterans. This support is largely not material, but spiritual. Attention to these elderly people is the main value. As I got to know this elderly couple, I was inspired by their enduring love for each other and their resilience in the face of challenges.

I quickly became a regular visitor to their home. I communicated with their relatives from France, helped with various tasks, and listened to their creative works. Lydia wrote poetry while Nikolai wrote prose. At that time, they had been living together for 61 years. Nikolai reverently cared for his wife. He bathed her, dressed her, did various physical exercises with her, invited friends over, and tried in every way to keep her in a good mood.

It was interesting for me to watch such an elderly couple from the sidelines. At that time, I was already dating my future wife. I could not imagine that people could live together for so long, go through so many trials, see such a different country, and stay together despite the challenges.

My grandmother was an invalid, and every Summer when I came to visit her, I would take care of her for several months. I would feed her, comb out her hair, and take her for a ride in her wheelchair. Perhaps the memories of my past allowed me to have a special connection to Nikolai and Lydia.

I learned of Lydia’s death from Nikolai almost immediately. Unfortunately, I couldn’t come to the funeral because I was overseas. I was very sad about not being able to support my friend at that moment. When I returned to St. Petersburg, I heard his story about how he had fed her scrambled eggs on her last night. How she had been taken away in an ambulance, and he had followed her. Finding her in the hospital corridor, he confessed his love for her, but she was already unconscious, though her eyes were open.

It was very hard for him at first. And I realized I just wanted to be there for him. To try to distract him from his sad thoughts. We began to read and publish his writings and go to museums, and concerts. That's when I realized I wanted to tell his story.

Together, we visited places that held special memories for Nikolai and Lidochka, and I listened to stories from his youth that revealed new facets of his character. I was in awe of his determination to live life to the fullest, despite losing his beloved wife. As I reflected on my own life, I realized how easy it is to take our loved ones for granted and how important it is to cherish each moment together.

Now, at 30 years old, I am happily married, and the thought of losing my spouse rarely crosses my mind. But Nikolai’s strength and perseverance have taught me the importance of living in the present and appreciating every moment with our loved ones. He may have lost his partner in life, but he has not lost his zest for life, and I am honored to tell his story.

In this fast-paced world where love seems to have become a fleeting feeling, Sasha Ivanov’s photographs remind us that true love does exist. Through his lens, we are taken on a journey of a couple who defied all odds and proved that love knows no boundaries of age or time. Lydia and Nikolai’s story is a testament to the strength of human relationships and the unwavering power of love. And it is through Sasha Ivanov’s lens that their love story will continue to inspire generations to come. So let us all take a moment to appreciate our loved ones and cherish every moment we have with them, just like Lydia and Nikolai did for 62 years.

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The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and are not necessarily shared by The Pictorial List and the team.

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