Kristina & Ilya

[Music]

KRISTINA: I found that video, and I played it, and I realised that was him.

ILYA: I have to do something really really crazy, to catch her.

KRISTINA: That was, the most romantic thing in my life, and it’s still the most romantic thing in my life.

MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This week, a film-worthy meet-cute that kick started Kristina & Ilya’s relationship. Now living in London, these two met in Estonia.

Just a head’s up, there’s a little swear in this episode.

KRISTINA: My name is Kristina.

ILYA: My name is Ilya, I’m a Software Developer, er my partner is Kristina, so she’s also kinda er UX Designer, Web Developer…

KRISTINA: Er, we’ve been together for 10… oh, oh actually it’s gonna be 11 years errr next month, ummm I can’t properly remember the first time we met, actually because it was at uni and it was my second year, and it was really stressful… and...umm I was actually going through um, a very difficult phase in another relationship [laughs] um so um yeah, I probably didn’t notice when we first met.

ILYA: I can’t forget er the first time I met her, er that was in university, er that was 2007 I believe.

KRISTINA: I just remember like, some flashes when um I’m at uni, at the workshop or something and we share the same desk and I think, oh ‘this guy looks sexy! But concentrate on um statistical analysis Kristina!’ [laughs] um, but I guess first time we ever interacted properly and er had a chat was… um… so I was late for one of the lectures, err as I always was at that time. And er, I was running, and I tried to make as less noise as possible, so of course I fell over. And um my bag opened up and all the stuff I had in my bag, it was spread across the lecture room. Erm, of course everyone looked at me, and um, I was apologising and trying to collect all my stuff [laughs] erm and one guy just handed me my diary over.

ILYA: I helped her to pick up all her stuff, because some stuff er rolling under my table. She looks quite friendly, so er that’s why I didn’t hesitate to start a conversation with her, especially when I er, saw a small ticket of a concert, er that pulled out from her bag. And the thing is that I also attended this concert, that was er concert of one metal band, it’s called Amatory but today they don’t play metal anymore.

KRISTINA: So, I thanked him, and um, he whispered -

ILYA: “Did you attend this concert?”

KRISTINA: And I was like “what? Oh right”, because in my diary I kept all the tickets from all the gigs I was um going to, so, and I said “yeah yeah yeah, I was at that gig last week, right yeah” and like “oh that’s cool I was there too” “yeah cool cool, amazing” err, and after the lecture the guy handed me um a piece of paper and asked me for my MSN address… if anyone remembers that social network! [laughs]

ILYA: So that was the first topic that I, well, we start a conversation about. And er, yeah I understood that we have the same err… we like the same music.

KRISTINA: That night, I added him to my MSN, and I saw his erm avatar picture, and on that picture he had a photo camera, and the name of the band on his hat… exactly the same band that was a week ago. Um, and then something clicked in my head, because exactly a week ago, I was at that gig, and I saw a guy taking photos in front of the stage, and he was dressed exactly as that band, and I thought he’s with the band, because he like, everything was proper merch, with the band name, the hat, and um a t-shirt, and thought ‘that guy looks cool!’ because he was taking pictures and in the meantime he was er headbanging, um, so I took a video of that photographer, and so while I was chatting with Ilya over MSN I found that video, and I played it, and I realised that was him.

And I told him “Sorry to look creepy but, look at this video” and I sent it to him and he was like “oh shit that’s me!” [laughs] I was like “oh, I noticed you a week ago” [laughs]. So yeah, we decided to maybe go on a date next week.

Um...so yeah as I said before I was going through a difficult stage in my previous relationship, um so I was about to break up with that guy but he received a notice to go to the army. Um so I thought ‘I don’t want to be that person, to just dump him before he goes to the army. So, so ‘ok, it’s just eight months… and we’re not going to see each other too often so… I’m gonna wait until he’s back.’ [laughs]. So, erm, so he went to the army in September, and he was about to come back in July, erm and it was March when I met Ilya and went to that gig, so I was already planning my speech… and then I met Ilya and I guess I decided to speed up the break-up process [laughs], uh it sounds awful I know, but yeah I couldn’t… I couldn’t help myself because I already fell in love.

ILYA: I should admit that, that wasn’t like a love from the first sight. Er, she was attractive, she was pretty, but erm, you know I started to talk with her and I understand that she’s a very interesting person. So er, of course later er, when I really understand ‘ok I love this person’ er that was very balanced decision, so er, I really loved not her, er like er, her body, her face, I really love her as a person. And er when I started to speak with her, I understood, ‘ok I would like to be with this person’ because we have the same interests in the life, we have the same attitudes and approaches in this life. And I really wanted to spend some time with her.

KRISTINA: So I guess we met at uni erm almost every day at different courses and just in the meantime between courses we just had a walk around, it was quite warm. It was beginning of April… erm, so we just talked about different subjects and different courseworks and about life in general, just walked around the campus... but I guess the first proper date was er two weeks after we met... He decided to take me out to my favorite place in Tallinn so it's just outside of Tallinn, there is like a folklore museum, um so with wooden houses near the sea, and like, I don't know, like stone constructions around and a stone maze and swings.

So we went there and it was sunset and we were walking around, [sighs] this sounds really cheesy but [laughs] we started to walk inside the maze and... I was the least shy person, so when we met in the middle of the maze, I just decided to kiss him [laughs]. Um, it was quite awkward because at the same time my Dad called me, and what my Dad wanted me to do is to go to the shop after my date and buy toilet paper! Yeah, it's not that you want to say to your date right?

So… er but that's not the end because while we were awkwardly laughing and going back to the car, er, Ilya’s roommate called and asked him to buy toilet paper! [laughs]

So we went to the shop together on our first date... like first time kiss like an hour ago... buying toilet paper and walking out of the shopping mall with er, two packs of toilet paper [laughs.

Um, at the end of May he received a notice from the government to go to the army!

ILYA: In Estonia we’re obligated to go to the army for one year, and I wasn't an exception. And unfortunately, when I was 23 years old, I received [laughs] an invitation to the army and that was mandatory. Yeah, and at the same time, I met Kristina, and I double didn't want to go to the army, so you understand me? Er, but I didn’t have a choice.

KRISTINA: So lucky me! [laughs] Um, so yeah, and unluckily, it wasn’t eight months’ service, it was 12 months’ service, so.. Um, of course I decided that ‘yeah I wanna be with that guy, I'm gonna wait for him’ again.

ILYA: When you communicate with a girl, so you met her ,you know each other for three months, and you start to come on “can you wait for me one year” and of course she's young she's pretty she's attractive person and er, she won't wait for you for this such a long time. So ‘I have to do something really, really crazy to catch her’.

[Music]

ILYA: So [laughs] I was a student ,I didn't have a lot of money, so I had a temporary work and I earned… a little bit of money and I decided to purchase Apple iPod... and I spent all my money for that, for this Apple iPod.. do you remember that 10 years ago this was iPod with the wheel joystick and 10 years ago that was like the best player ever, with the best music quality and stuff like that... and I also decided to write a song for her. And my plan was er to give the gift of the iPod having only one song song. The song created for her.

Er yeah I remember when I returned back, well we had like a dating, and I returned back to my student hostel... I just picked up my guitar and started just playing, and er you know that was probably only one moment in my life when I had a pure inspiration. You know I can't say that I’m a very talented musician but specifically that time, er that song just appeared from, from me... I can't expect it.

So I didn't wrote this music, this music was created by itself... and er you know, I don't have a musical education, so er, but I know, you have to write down this music because on the next morning when you wake up, you won't remember anything. So what I did I pick up my phone so at that time I didn't have a smartphone, I had a Sony Ericsson... but it has a... like a voice recorder and I played, recorded this music without any words just like a ‘nah nah nah nah nah’. Just to remember this music the next morning. And the whole day, the next whole day I repeated this music and... well I wrote the lyrics again very fast, and I decided to write down so I had a computer… er you should understand what is a student hotel, that is very old building. So if you do something, er the whole floor is listening to you.

So there's not really a  problem how to write down the guitar. But how about the singing, how about the vocal? So what I did, I pick up the, just a blanket… I put to myself, and inside this blanket I tried to sing to the microphone, and that is only one solution...how, well [laughs] could afford… and yeah I created this music and I uploaded to this Apple iPod.

The plan was the following: er, one week before I er, go to the army we decided to have together a trip.

KRSTINA: I decided to take him on a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia,  because my best friend was living there and I really like this city. Erm, and he’d never been to St. Petersburg properly… maybe like as a kid. Erm, so I decided to show him my favorite city at that point of life and erm, drink wine and sit on the rooftop and watch the sunset or something like this.

ILYA: St. Petersburg is very beautiful city and it’s very romantic. So you can just walk in the streets the whole night return by home at seven o'clock and everybody’s so happy. Oh, that is really, really amazing. And my plan was erm somehow to hide this player in our bag... and to move to the flat. So we lived in flats together with our friends. So there were five students all together in one small flat, and er, I wanted to hide somewhere this gift so er, yeah, the biggest problem that I didn't know anything about the flat and I didn't know how to hide this gift. And another problem that we had only one common bag, and I didn't know how to hide this gift in the way that Kristina shouldn't, shouldn't find it. And another problem: that's when you cross the border… er the tall officer should inspect your bag… and if you’re staying together so potentially the officer could open this gift just to inspect what it is... but actually everything was fine and I successfully moved the gift uncovered [laughs] to the flat... and er the whole week I tried to find any secret place where nobody could find the gift beforehand... and actually, well quite embarrassing but, there was under one place... in the toilet.

So in the toilet there was like a shelf, probably no one opened this shelf at all and I hided this gift in the shelf... and yeah, on the D Day we moved to the bus station, just to arrive back to Estonia and Kristina wanted to stay a couple of days more in St. Petersburg. And I secretly wrote a very small note and er... that was quite romantic morning and we decided to, to make this farewell very quick… because otherwise, we both would be crying. And er, we just quickly kissed each other, very quickly, er didn’t say anything to each other.. Just “see ya”, “see ya”, and I just gave this note her, she turned, er she didn’t read it, she just turned and went back to the metro station. Yeah. So I didn't see her reaction.

KRISTINA: When I waved him goodbye, he handed me a letter... And while I was watching erm, him going away, erm, I started to read the letter and apparently he erm, have hidden an iPod, which he bought for me erm somewhere in my friend’s flat and on the iPod he had a song that he has written for me. So I rushed home, I was crying all the way on the tube there, and when I found um, a gift, I locked myself in the bathroom and I was listening to that song... and that was the most romantic thing in my life it's still the most romantic thing in my life.

[Music starts]

He was somewhere, there on the road, going to serve the country for 12 months and I'm here listening to his voice, erm a song about me, erm, so yeah I was crying out loud for probably a couple of months after that [laughs].

MARIA: Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and a special thanks to Kristina and Ilya.

Often love stories are in fact, stories of only the start of love, and as we all know, any good tale has an ending. Sadly, since recording this episode Kristina & Ilya have separated, but they have given me their blessing to share their story, and so I thank you both very much, and wish you the very best.

As always, there’s a brand new piece of art to accompany this episode. This week, a humorous interpretation comes from D L Parker. Head over to equalpartspodcast.co.uk to give it a look, and find links to more of his work.

The website is also the place to go if you’d like to take part in the next season of the podcast. I’m looking for couples, and artists to get involved.

Next time, taking your date to see a play about eggs. I mean, who hasn’t been there?

ELLIE: When Lucy laughs you can hear it… she’s having the time of her life.

LUCY: Thinking about it, the reason I kind of, like, I knew she was very very cool, and I knew we were gonna get on was that this show… 9 times out of 10 a person would have been like “what the… is this?”.