‘It’s a shame I’m taking my wife to Ireland under these circumstances’ – Wexford man flees Kyiv just months after happy marriage

Irishman Bradley Stafford and his wife Anastasiia were overjoyed on their wedding day just seven months ago in Kyiv, the main target of Russian bombardment in Ukraine.

oday, Bradley (29) and Anastasiia (24) are among thousands made homeless after fleeing Ukraine.

The couple, who escaped with their friend and golden retriever, Bailey, are renting an Airbnb in Krakow, Poland, with plans to travel by road and ferry to Ireland in a few weeks.

The couple’s home in Kyiv is near a military base and Mr Stafford fears their flat, left to his wife by her grandfather, could be destroyed by Russian forces.

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“The building isn’t the most important thing, but it’s still your home,” the photographer said.

“Ana will be devastated if she is bombed. It would be our house, gone, without thinking about it.

Mr Stafford said he had a view of a TV tower in Kyiv from the couple’s bedroom window. This structure has been shelled by Russian troops in recent days.

“The fact is that it looks like the situation will only get worse for Kyiv,” he said.
“I try to think positively for my mental state. But I expect the worst. »

The Wexford photographer has lived in several countries over the past decade but chose to stay in Ukraine because he thought it was a ‘magical place’.

He moved to Kyiv in 2017, where he met and fell in love with technician Anastasiia.

They married at a town hall and Anastasiia broke with tradition by wearing a short, vibrant red dress while Mr Stafford wore an unbuttoned white shirt and wheat-coloured chinos.

The couple proudly waved their marriage certificates as they embarked headlong into an exciting life together in a cosmopolitan European city.

The wedding took place during the pandemic and Mr Bradley’s parents, Cindy and Niall, who live in Sligo, have yet to meet Anastasiia.

“My family hasn’t even been able to meet my wife yet.

“She kept asking us to visit her and it’s a shame that I’m taking my wife to Ireland under these circumstances.

“I know my mom will wrap her arms around us and give us the biggest hug.

“But right now I feel guilty for leaving Ukraine.

“Ana wants to start working (remotely) again. She wants to take care. But she does not know if she will see her family again. We don’t know if we will ever return to Kyiv.

“The morning we left, we went to his grandparents and said goodbye, and it was awful.”

But despite the trauma he has witnessed, it is clear that Mr Stafford has fallen in love with the country and is not going to abandon it.

“It might seem today that Ukraine doesn’t have much of a future,” he said. “But I believe Ukraine will have a much better future than Russia.

“In the interest of humanity, in the interest of a peaceful future in the world, the Russian people must assume their responsibilities. They need to stand up and protest in large numbers against Putin.

“If they don’t, not only will the Russian people suffer economically, but they will also carry this terrible shame for generations – the kind of shame the German people had to bear after Hitler.

“They can’t just sit back and let this happen to their neighbors.

“It doesn’t matter how scared they are of Putin. They have to stand up because it is much bigger than their fear.

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