Sitting around a campfire in an idyllic forest clearing, it was the perfect honeymoon celebration with family and friends.
But the dream outing was transformed into a bloodbath by a buried First World War bomb.
Shrapnel tore through Lidiia Makarchuk’s body and her brother was killed.
The 31-year-old had travelled to the Ukrainian beauty spot for a belated honeymoon after marrying Norbert Varga, 43, near their home in Bracknell, Berkshire.
It is thought the explosion was triggered by the fire the party of 12 had lit at the end of a walk last month in the Carpathian Mountains near the border with Hungary. The bomb went off while they were telling stories and drinking tea.
Lidiia Makarchuk, 31, sustained shrapnel injuries to her left eye and across her face after an unexploded bomb went off in a Ukrainian forest. Her hands were also lacerated, leaving the bone visible, while her legs were shredded and some of the muscle was missing
Miss Makarchuk, a Ukraine-born accountant, recalled telling her friends how her husband had won her heart after complimenting her shoes in church back in 2019.
She said: ‘The fire made a special atmosphere and we had a lot to say. It had been such a long time since we’d seen each other.’
Mr Varga, a radio operator and keen photographer, went to his tent at around 9pm to fetch his camera when he was rocked by an earth-shattering blast.
Miss Makarchuk had travelled to the Ukrainian beauty spot for a belated honeymoon after marrying Norbert Varga, 43, near their home in Bracknell, Berkshire
He said: ‘While I was packing my equipment the sound of an explosion and screams broke the silence. I ran to the bonfire as fast as I could, screaming Lidiia’s name.’
His wife recalled the moment the blast ripped through the campsite, saying: ‘In one second I felt like someone had taken a rock and thrown it in my face, in my nose especially.
‘Then I had a whistling in my ears followed by a silence where I could hear only myself. I turned away and covered my face with my hands and started praying for myself. Then I realised it wasn’t just me. Everyone was moaning, everyone was in pain.’
Mr Varga desperately tried to find his wife, who had sustained shrapnel injuries to her left eye and across her face.
Her hands were also lacerated, leaving the bone visible, while her legs were shredded and some of the muscle was missing.
Miss Makarchuk, who moved to the UK in 2017, could hear the dying gasps of her brother Myroslav, 29, as she herself lay on the ground, blinded. Speaking from the Ukrainian hospital where she is being treated, she said: ‘My one regret is not calling out to him to tell him I loved him.’
In the 90 minutes it took paramedics to arrive, Myroslav and another man died. Others suffered serious injuries. The beauty spot was a battlefield in both world wars near Mount Hoverla, the tallest mountain in Ukraine.
It is thought the bomb came from the time of the Brusilov Offensive, a bloody campaign waged by the Russians against Austria-Hungary in 1916.
Lidiia and her brother Myroslav hours before his death. In the 90 minutes it took paramedics to arrive after the bomb exploded, Myroslav and another man died. Others suffered serious injuries
Lidiia (right) by the campfire with her friends moments before the tragedy. It is thought the bomb came from the time of the Brusilov Offensive, a bloody campaign waged by the Russians against Austria-Hungary in 1916
Mr Varga, who is from Hungary but has lived in the UK since 2018, said: ‘I will never forget the sound of Myroslav’s mortal agony.
‘I tried to bandage his head and place him in the recovery position, but it was too late. He was fighting for his life for two hours. I am still thinking, what could I have done more? Why not me? Why them? War movies are the closest thing to what I experienced that night, I will never forget it.’
Miss Makarchuk and the other injured holidaymakers finally arrived at hospital at 4am, an agonising seven hours after the blast.
Although still confined to hospital, Miss Makarchuk is now walking again but thinks it will be late next month before she can travel to Hungary for additional eye treatment, after which she will come home to the UK.
As she had no travel insurance, she now faces a huge medical bill, which her UK family has been raising money for on GoFundMe – https://www.gofundme.com/f/urgent-please-help-lidiia