I met Tamara (76) on a city tour of Toronto, and she told me her story.
Tamara and Anatoliy met in Kiev, their home town in Ukraine, when they were both twenty. Tamara fell in love with Anatoliy at once: he was in the military, looked dashing in his uniform, and on weekends he roamed around central Kiev on his motorcycle, turning heads. Anatoliy was blond, and he too was instantly attracted to the stylish brunette (“Oh yes, I was a looker in those days!”).
They have been seeing each other for about a year until the day when Anatoliy’s best friend Yuriy had a word with him.
– How long are you planning on fooling Tamara? When will you tell her that you’re married?
– What’s in it for you? Will you tell on me?
– I might if you won’t.
– And why is that? Do you fancy her yourself, is that it?
That was indeed the reason, for shortly after Yuriy (“the traitor” in Tamara’s eyes) had spilled the beans, he and Tamara got married. They have been married for over 50 years, and during that time Tamara and Anatoliy barely saw or heard from each other despite having mutual friends. Anatoliy moved his family to Murmansk, the inhospitable North-Western corner of Russia; Tamara and Yuriy had children, and the love affair remained well in the past.
In 2010 Anatoliy travelled to a reunion party of the Military Academy alumni in Kiev. At that time he was living in Toronto. When in Kiev he managed to find Tamara’s friend and asked her to help get in touch with Tamara. Anatoliy called his young love and told her he still cared for her. He said: “My wife has died, I now live in Canada with my son’s family. Now will you see me, a girl of high morals?”
Technology is a wonderful thing. Every week Tamara went over to her friend’s house with a laptop and dial-up internet connection for a Skype call with Anatoliy. It seemed, weeks not decades have gone by. They talked and laughed and got to know each other again. Eventually, Anatoliy’s son helped to arrange a visa for Tamara to come to Canada.
It was Tamara’s plan to stay with Anatoliy for a few weeks (or so she told her family), but when she saw him at the airport, she momentarily wished she could fly straight back home. Once dapper, Anatoliy aged badly, his skin was purple and his limbs were swollen. He was a painful sight. The death of his wife took his toll on him. His son took him to doctors, but they weren’t able to help.
Tamara took matters into her own hands. She fed Anatoliy a healthy diet, took him walking, prepared herbal bandages to drain the lymphatic fluids, and each night she massaged his legs and arms to reduce the swelling. Anatoliy’s son puzzled over the sounds of nightly activities until Tamara straightened things out. It took time, but her perseverance and care worked magic.
Anatoliy recovered and became once again his own fit self – just in time. Tamara suffered a mild heart attack and had an operation. It was Anatoliy’s turn to nurse and look after her. Tamara never went back to Kiev. Her husband (“the traitor”) eventually gave her divorce. Anatoliy and Tamara got married, and have now been living together in Toronto for three years.
“These last three years have been the happiest years of my life. It is as if I was re-born. Tolik [Anatoliy] gave me this new life. I have never been so in love as I am now. Can you believe that I am 76?”