Tuesday 22nd May, 2018
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Valentine's Day: Different Faces of Love

VOA - Thursday 15th February, 2018

The love stories of the following couples run the gamut from storybook high school romances to the more unconventional, such as finding love after an acid attack.

Hayes Mehana (R), 78, and Om Hany, 60, pose for a photograph at a vegetable market in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 12, 2018.

Hayes and Om have been married for 42 years and have 12 children. Their love started at a vegetable market and now they dedicate their time to their 50-year-old vegetable shop business which they worked to expand.

'Our families don't know about Valentine's Day but we built a big family as it was our dream. With my wife, every day is like a festival, not just one day,' Hayes said.

Alejandra, 44, an education policy consultant and Razhy, 48, a journalist and a human rights activist, walk on a street in the Coyoacan neighborhood, in Mexico City, Mexico, Feb. 9, 2018.

Alejandra and Razhy met in Mexico City in 1998, after Razhy was kidnapped and quit his job as a director of a weekly magazine in Oaxaca, a state south of the country.

Months later, Alejandra traveled to Europe to study. 'I went to study in France, I returned to the country and all went cold, my family did not accept our relationship. Finally, four years later, we were both without partners and decided to meet again. We got married in the neighborhood of Coyoacan, the neighborhood where we walked together and we met again after all those years,' said Alejandra.

During the earthquake on September 19, the apartment of the couple suffered considerable damage. 'Our house was damaged by the earthquake, now we live in another apartment and are waiting for the legal liability to repair the damages and be able to return,' said Razhy. The couple have a nine-year-old son.

Pramodini Roul, 24, an acid attack survivor and a campaigner at Chhanv, an NGO that supports acid attack victims, and her partner Saroj Sahoo, 26, a manager at Chhanv, share a moment at the 'Sheroes' home for acid attack victims in Noida, India, Feb. 8, 2018.

Pramodini and Saroj met at a nursing home in Cuttack, India, where Pramodini was undergoing treatment for acid burns. Saroj met her for the first time on April 8, 2014, when he visited his friend, who treated Pramodini, at the nursing home.

'On September 14, 2017, after an eye surgery, I was flying with Saroj and suddenly started seeing things clearly. That was the first time I saw Saroj's face. I had never imagined that I would be able to see Saroj in my lifetime,' said Pramodini. The couple is scheduled to hold a ring ceremony on Valentine's Day in Lucknow.

Jenny Ostrom, 37, a director of photography and her husband Chad Ostrom, 37, a director, stand in McCarren Park, near their home in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Feb. 8, 2018.

'We met the first day of college in the middle of the heartland, Kansas. My friends and I thought it noble to help the arriving freshman girl students move into the dorms. There was Jenny, unpacking boxes with her family and in classic, comedy double-take action I walked by her room, stopped, and walked right back to it. Through three states, long-distance dating, high times, low moments and 19 years later, we now share a home, a little girl and a life,' said Chad.

Dmitry Shamovich and his wife, Anastasia Kuzmenkova, play with the dog Amur at their homestead Zaimka Leshego in the village of Sosnovy Bor, Belarus, Feb. 7, 2018.

'Four years ago I was here, at the homestead for the first time - we arrived with other birdwatchers to build artificial nests for owls. And I met Dmitry, the owner of homestead, for the first time, here. Later we met again, when I arrived to be a volunteer in a project related to capercaillie. After that we made more projects together and one day I understood I fell in love with him. It was mutual,' said Anastasia.

Aviva Ephrati, left, 84, retired kindergarten teacher, and Israel Ephrati, 87, retired supervisor at a higher educational institution, sit in the living room at the protective housing in Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, Israel, Feb. 8, 2018.

Aviva Ephrati and Israel Ephrati have been married for 64 years. 'In 1950 I met Israel by accident, who was a soldier then, when I was trying to push away another young man who wanted to date me which I didn't want during an evening out in Jerusalem. After that young man left the scene, Israel asked me to date him and I refused, I was willing to be a friend of him but I didn't want anything romantic," said Aviva.

"In the next four years, I almost got married to another guy who disappeared two weeks before the wedding after his father gave him an ultimatum after finding out that my father was not originally Jewish," she said.

"During these years Israel kept on sending me letters for New Year and checking on me. It took four years, until I showed a friend these letters, which I still keep, who told me that I am stupid not to get on with him. We are married for 64 years now, we have three children and few months ago we got our first great granddaughter,' said Aviva.

Noor Djait, 31, an architect, and Ismail Benmiled, 36, a businessman, with their three-year-old son Said and four-month-old daughter Malek at their house in Tunis, Tunisia, Feb. 9, 2018.

Noor Djait and Ismail Benmiled of Tunisia lived on the same road and went to the same schools growing up, but never became close until they met in a nightclub when she was 17.

'That night was the first time we really made eye contact with each other, the first time I talked to him. I remember I took off my shoes to dance on the table. At the end I only found one, Ismail found the other. He brought it to me two days later, like Cinderella.'

They began a relationship but, with Ismail five years her senior, she was concerned about their age difference and they broke up. But Ismail persisted, staying in contact with her, until he came to Rome years later, where she was finishing her architecture studies, proposing marriage shortly after.

'We have been married for six years, we have two children and our love has not changed an iota. We are as in love as we were in the beginning,' Djait said.

Huang Chenfeng, right, 63, and her husband, Zheng Dingguo, 63, pose for a picture at Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center in Shanghai, China, Feb. 6, 2018.

Huang and Zheng originally come from Wenzhou in Zhejiang province. Huang has been taking care of her husband around the clock since he was admitted to the hospital for cancer treatment. The couple had an arranged marriage in 1972.

Kazuhiko Kobayashi, 80, and his wife, Mieko Kobayashi, 73, at their music shop named Ameyoko Rhythm, specialized for Enka, traditional Japanese popular ballad, in Tokyo';s Ameyoko shopping district, Japan, Feb. 8, 2018.

Kazuhiko said 'I met her in 1963, 55 years ago. She was a classmate of my younger sister. One day she came over to my house and I took a shine to her because she was so charming. Since that day on, I called her every day. In the beginning, she did not seem to be interested in me, but I conveyed my passion to her.'

"On our first date, I waited at a meeting place for an hour. It turned out she had been advised by her mother and older sister to be late for an hour to see whether I was serious about her. My feelings got through to her, and we married on October 15, 1964, five days after the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. Fifty-four years have passed since then. We see each other most of the time, both at home and at this shop, which has been in business for about 50 years, but I still find her charming every day!' he said.

Bride Amornrat Ruamsin (L), 27, who is a transgender, holds up her five-month-old daughter with her groom Pitchaya Kachainrum (R), 16, during their wedding ceremony organised by a local TV show, in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 9, 2018.

Amornrat and Pitchaya's ceremony is not legally-binding since Pitchaya in under 17, the legal age for marriage in Thailand. The couple plan to officially wed after her birthday.

'I've had relationships with men before, but it was not that good and I was heartbroken many times. I met Pitchaya on Facebook and I first sent her a message to introduce myself. We fell in love with each other. After living together for more than a year, we agreed to have a baby. So now we have five-month-old daughter and today we got married as our parents wanted. This is the happiest day of my life,' said Amornrat.

Tattoo artists, Kathriel Zambrano (L), 23, and Yohanna Gonzalez, 28, pose for a portrait in front of the bar El Molino where they first met, in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 9, 2018.

Yohanna was working at a bar for an event called InkFest. She was piercing. Meanwhile, Kathriel was being tattooed in front of a stand where she was working. 'I didn't give him much attention, because, at the time, I was with another person,' said Yohanna.

'When I saw him, he impressed me because he has very big eyes and the color was very impressive but nothing else. I left early.'

One day he texted and asked her what she was doing and if he could go and visit. 'He bought me a bottle of anise liquor, but I told him, 'honey, I don't drink, you can buy me a chocolate if you want.'

One day she arrived home and 'on my bed there was a gift bag in the shape of candy, with a lot of makeup, a necklace and a little book that said, 'Do you want to be my girlfriend?' and that's where it started...'

They have been together for over five months now. 'One day he grabbed me in a queue, and asked me if I really wanted something serious with him, I said yes, I was willing to be with him forever. Then he knelt, gave me a ring and proposed to me. I started laughing a lot because I got very nervous.' Now they are engaged.

'We have not been together for long time, but we really feel that we know each other all our lives, it was such a brutal chemistry at the beginning that it has been impressive,' said Yohanna.

Rute Magalhaes, 33, and Filipe Alves, 38, are seen through a large format camera while they pose for a portrait at their studio in Lisbon, Portugal, Feb. 8, 2018.

'We met 12 years ago on the Internet. Photography brought us together and we fell in love. Then we started a studio to help others fall in love with the magic of photos,' Rute said.

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