Anna and Alex were drawing letters into each other's hands while patiently posing in silence. My interview had just brought back moving memories, and by putting thoughts into words, they felt like they had achieved a heartwarming closure of an important chapter.
Their romance started 11 years ago. Alex, the blonde, lived in Krasnodar, southern Russia, and was still healing from divorcing her husband. She was not interested in a new romance but gave it a chance when she found that she was forming a very special connection online with Anna, who lived in Moscow. They started to spend days and nights on the phone. Anna remembers it cost half of her income! After a year of traveling back and forth, Alex moved to Moscow, and they spent the first 8 years of their relationship there, in the company of Bamby, their beloved Abyssinian cat.
In Russia, having a relationship with someone of the same sex is risky. Hate crime is very much of an issue, so they would pretend to be sisters or friends who shared a flat to save on rent. They never kissed, held hands, or shared food or drinks when with others. The sense of freedom and safety they had while visiting other countries made them decide to move. They chose Holland, where they immediately felt at home. Anna, who has a more rational personality, is an IT project manager and got a working visa, while Alex, the more emotional and creative, had to rely completely on her, although she made bookbindings and watercolors.
However, after one year in Holland, their cat Bamby died from a kidney problem, and Alex, with no job to help distract her mind, fell into a depression. Only a few weeks later the pandemic hit, and the lockdown forced them to stay inside the small flat where everything reminded them of Bamby.
Alex had no energy and could not feed herself, shower, or get out of bed. In March 2020, she started weekly online sessions with a psychotherapist, while Anna focused on working to provide for and protect her partner. Then she got an idea: she bought Alex that Lego house that she always desired as a child. She had to build it piece by piece. “If you are in pieces, it doesn't mean that you are broken,” said Anna and, moved, observed how Alex started to feel joy putting those tiny pieces together. In reality, she was rebuilding herself. Alex got so enthusiastic that she convinced Anna that they needed a new, stable, safe place; then they realized that they could afford a mortgage!
Today I portray them in their own new house, full of windows and plants. Alex now is restoring beautiful antique furniture to decorate their new home, and a new, young Abyssinian cat is playing around us and seeking their attention.