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German soldiers hauled Antin Nakonecznyj out of bed in his hometown in Ukraine one morning in May 1944. It would be 47 years before he saw his wife, Anna, again.

Now, one year after their long-awaited reunion, the two are living happily ever after in a cozy apartment in Hartford's South End. In September, Antin, now 71, and Anna, 65, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary."We're very happy," said Nakonecznyj, a retired maintenance worker. "Same like before, nothing's changed."

Theirs has been no ordinary marriage, and it has survived against extraordinary odds.

Throughout years of upheaval, through frightening train rides to German camps and emigration in 1949 to the United States, Nakonecznyj (pronounced nock-oh-NECH'-nee) never gave up on his love. But he avoided contacting his wife back home, because he was known in his youth as an ardent anti-communist and feared any contact with her might endanger her safety.

When nine years had gone by without a word from Antin and she was growing tired of KGB questions and beatings, Anna Nakonecznyj married again.

She stuck it out with her new husband for 37 years, raising two daughters and becoming a grandmother, even after learning Antin was alive and well in America. But she never stopped loving him.

"She said she was always thinking about me, even when she was married," Nakonecznyj said.

"That's first love," he added.

She smiled shyly and blushed.

When her second husband died in 1990, Anna did not hesitate; she wrote to Antin in Hartford and told him she was free.

"She said, `If you have something still in your heart . . .' I said, `All right, I take you,' " Nakonecznyj said.

Within weeks, he had arranged for a visa to get her to Hartford.

The couple say their reunion would not have been possible without the disintegration of the Soviet bloc. Ever since Ukraine voted in December to declare its independence, they've been thrilled, Nakonecznyj said.

"All the time we fight for freedom. We figure, maybe revolution," he said. "But this freedom comes in with nothing - no casualties. We figure a miracle has happened."