For the first time since the Russia invasion on February 24, a Jewish wedding took place in Ukraine. The wedding took place on Monday night – the 40th day of the war – in the Menora building compound in the eastern city of Dnipro.
Alexander Tolkach and Tatiana Gvinyashvili, young Jews from the city, married in a small ceremony attended by 25 people, instead of the hundreds who were originally expected. The couple’s friends and family have mostly fled the city or have been drafted into the army in recent weeks. However, Alexander and Tatiana knew they would have their wedding on the date set four months in advance, no matter how many people showed up.
“It may have been a bit annoying at first to think that so many people dear to us would not be able to rejoice with us,” Alexander said. “But we are happy to build our own home out of the surrounding ruins. The main thing is that we have each other. We insisted on marrying as a Jewish couple even though it is not always easy in countries outside Israel, so it is clear that our home will be a full-fledged Jewish home. Our dream is for a home full of small children that we can raise quietly and peacefully.”
The two were wed by Dnipro’s Chabad Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzky, who decided to stay in Ukraine in order to help the thousands of Jews who did not or could not leave.
“This wedding symbolizes for us the beginning of the return to regular life," Kaminetzky said under the huppa (wedding canopy), "and we hope that it will instill in them optimism about what is expected in the future.”
Prior to the Russian invasion, the Menorah Jewish Community Center held several weddings every week with hundreds of guests. The center provides kosher catering and a luxurious hotel for relatives who attend from other cities.
Rabbi Meir Stumbler, chairman of the Federation of Jewish communities in Ukraine, was one of the only participants in the wedding. “We suggest to all Jewish couples in the country not to postpone their weddings but to come to Dnipro and hold them with us at the Menorah Center, where they will find a complete infrastructure for a kosher Jewish wedding, at a subsidized price at the expense of the community,” he said after the ceremony.
“Building a new life is the most important thing that can be done at this time,” he said.