Amid the violence and political upheaval in Ukraine, a young female protester has told how she fell in love with a police officer after a stand-off in the capital Kiev.
Lidia Pankiv, 24, said she had been one of the protesters out on the streets campaigning against corruption and demanding a change the day she met police officer Andrei.
She said: 'We were up close to the police officers and I got a call from a friend, the officers were only just in front of us and she was asking me to help find a friend of hers that had been arrested.
'She wanted me to write something. I told her to call me, and I gave her the number she should call. I told her it twice as it was loud and there was shouting.'
Instead of the call she was expecting, however, she got a text and it was not from a protester, it was from one of the police officers who had been standing in the police line opposite her.
He said that when he had seen her standing there defenceless and putting herself between armed men and those that she was trying to protect, he had been smitten.
The short message said: 'Despite all the commotion I remembered your phone number when you gave it to your friend. I don't even know your name.
'I was standing in the night with a shield in front of you. When you stopped us from advancing, I realised that I want to marry you. Andrei.'
The first meeting was in front of the barricades on Maidan square, where surrounded by the wreckage of the battles they had their first date.
She said: 'I was really surprised that the message and don't know why I agreed to meet him, I thought perhaps it might be possible to convince him that the side he was on was wrong and I certainly didn't expect to find myself falling in love with him. But when I saw him when I started to speak to him – that is what happened.'
The young woman's story was first reported in December but was not excessively covered by local media which was still under the control of the government and where the policeman was in danger were his name to be made public.
This Valentines Day, many romantics found dates through 2RedBeans, an online dating service focused on matching Chinese – Americans.
"I met her 6 months ago through 2RedBeans and I felt a growing chemistry throughout our conversations," says Li, a Chinese-American who works for a high-tech company in Silicon Valley and declines to give his first time. "I was already in love with her before I even set eyes on her."
"I was skeptical at first about using a dating website to find love," he says, adding that he had no prior experience with online dating. "I'm so glad I gave it a try."
Now, they have officially been a couple for three months, and Li said he is confident about his new relationship.
More and more people are finding love online. Even Zhao Qinghua, the founder of 2RedBeans, met her future husband on the website she established to help Chinese-American singles find love.
Zhao, who has a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of California-San Diego, started her entrepreneurial endeavor after working at Broadcom as a software engineer.
"Like many entrepreneurs, I started 2RedBeans with my friends to solve our own problems, finding dates that could lead to a life partner," Zhao says.
Zhao said it was difficult to meet other people with similar cultural backgrounds and values.
"Since popular US dating sites like Match and eHarmony are not focused on matching Chinese-Americans, it is often hard for us to find people who have the same cultural values," she says.
In contrast, 2RedBeans' matching algorithm focused on characteristics that are more relevant to the Chinese, such as arrival date in the US and zodiac signs.
Zhao and her team also decided to make the site very interactive to encourage people to communicate with each other early on.
"Chinese by nature are very shy, which decreases their opportunities to meet other people," she explains. "We try our best to increase the interaction and in turn to increase their chances of finding someone."
Over the past three years, the website has hosted more than 200 offline dating activities across North America. On Valentine's Day, it held singles parties in cities including Washington DC, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver.
A partner with China's popular dating show If You Are The One, the dating website assisted on the 2012 North American special episode. 2RedBeans is now the co-organizer of the 2014 US edition of One Out of a Hundred, another popular Chinese matchmaking show hosted by Shanghai Dragon TV.
"The US edition of the show One Out of a Hundred is intended not just to be a dating show, but also a window for people in China to have a peek into the lives of people in the US, their value systems, their criteria for a mate, and their lifestyle," Zhao explains.
"In only 10 days, we've already had more than 290 applicants to the show, including actresses, engineers, professors, real estate agents, many amazing singles," she adds.
As the largest Chinese dating site in North America, 2RedBeans has more than 200,000 registered users. Zhao expects 2RedBeans will grow and saturate the US and Canadian market in 2014, adding it will then be expanding to other countries where there are many Chinese immigrants.
"We are pushing out our mobile apps so that singles can get access to other singles on the go. We are also working on something that can bring singles offline to meet each other quickly," she says.
As for the total number of 2RedBeans matches that lead to marriage, Zhao said the conservative estimate is at least one couple per day. "For matches that become girlfriend or boyfriend, I'd imagine that's a much larger number," she adds.
Jin, a 38-year-old Chinese American who lives in Fremont, California and declined to give his first name, started a relationship two months ago through 2RedBeans.
After some general chitchat and the first date, Jin said things moved really quickly.
"I have tried Match and eHarmony before. However, unlike 2RedBeans, I never had a serious offline date with someone," he says. "I feel US dating sites are more casual dating oriented.
"To me, or many Chinese-Americans, we start our experience with the purpose of marriage. 2RedBeans has narrowed the dating pool based on the same background and that made it much easier for me to find the right person."
have you got a date for valentine’s day? if the answer is no, you may want to consider turning to dating apps for help. it’s super easy: all you need to do is upload an attractive photo of yourself and add a short but interesting self-introduction.
dating apps are changing the courtship landscape, even if you have only a small circle of friends. have a crush on someone? just give them a “thumb-up” on their profile. if it’s not reciprocated, no big deal. you don’t really know each other, so you don’t need to feel embarrassed. besides, there are plenty of fish in the sea.
you probably won’t meet “the one” through dating apps, but at least getting yourself out this way will open opportunities to meet new people.
some critics, however, say dating apps kill romance. because they can match people based on their location, many people use dating apps as hook-up tools. they’re not interested in a serious relationship, but rather are looking for a short fling or even just a one-night-stand.
dan slater, writing for the atlantic, says dating apps are superficial and lazy. dating apps make people believe there is always someone better out there and therefore they find it hard to commit to a relationship. what’s more, browsing through user profiles is not unlike browsing through commodities at a store. if you find a certain commodity unsatisfactory, you can simply replace it with another.
in contrast, jeffrey kluger, writing for time magazine’s website, says that although looking for romance on dating apps may seem like consuming products, our fundamental attitude toward love hasn’t changed that much.
the way people pursue romance is always changing, kluger says, from generation to generation and even year to year. western countries have seen many transformations in the last century alone. “there was feminism women’s liberation in the 1970s. there was the pill contraception in the 1960s and the back seat of the chevy casual sex in the 1950s,” kluger says.
technology changes rapidly, but human beings do not. admittedly, kluger writes, some dating apps turn the whole dating experience into a kind of game. but gamification has always been a big part of the mating mix. kluger writes: “arm wrestling in a bar gamifies which man’s fitness display will best catch the eye of a woman.”
shana lebowitz, as a dating app user, has a more intuitive view on dating apps. writing for us-based media website greatist, lebowitz points out that the impact of dating apps depends on the specific person using it. but for many people, they provide “a sense of hope and confidence that doesn’t come from going through old photos of you and your ex”.