TIJUANA (Border Report) — Simon Dobrovski and fiancée Daria Sakhniuk had plans to marry in April surrounded by family and friends in Kyiv, but the war in Ukraine ruined their nuptials.
As the war started, the couple fled ahead of advancing Russian troops and ended up in Tijuana, Mexico, with the goal of crossing the border into California and traveling to New York City to join friends.
As a Ukrainian citizen, Sakhniuk had a better opportunity of crossing the border into the U.S. if she wanted to, but she refused to make the trek without Dobrovski, who is Russian.
Russian nationals like Dobrovski face a more difficult path when migrating legally north of the border.
“We as Russians are persona non grata,” he said. “Some airlines won’t even sell tickets to Russians right now.”
Their lawyer suggested an alternative: Get married in Tijuana.
With a marriage certificate in hand, the couple would have an easier path into the U.S. as a “family unit.”
So on Wednesday afternoon, after a three-and-a-half-year courtship, Dobrovski and Sakhniuk tied the knot at Tijuana’s City Hall surrounded by their attorney and employees who made the ceremony possible.
“We’re very happy because of the help people provided us to make this all happen, we’re so filled with joy,” said Dobrovski. “I’m so grateful to the Mexican people for what they did for us, we’re really excited by it.”
Sakhniuk, wearing a white sweater and a white jacket, brought a simple bouquet of flowers to the ceremony.
The couple stood hand in hand in front of a table, and a Tijuana city administrator conducted the civil proceeding with the help of a translator.
After exchanging vows and rings, they were declared husband and wife.
“We considered ourselves a family already, but we wanted to be a legal family in the eyes of other countries,” Sakhniuk said in Ukrainian. “We knew we were going to get married, the only thing that changed was the place.”
While not there in person, her family back home was able to participate and watch the ceremony live via a cellphone.
“We never expected the war to come, none of us expected that and because of this, we’re lucky and we’re grateful to be here at this moment with the people who are joining us right now,” Dobrovski said.
Dobrovski said he and his new bride plan to cross the border by the end of this week. And along with their marriage certificate, they will use photos and videos from social media to prove they’ve known each other for years.
“This will show we’ve had a relationship and this marriage is not just out of convenience,” he said.
Dobrovski, 29, is an audiologist who works in the hearing aid industry. Sakhniuk, 27, worked as an administrator in a dental office back in Kyiv.