It's been a long six years to finally arrive at Happily Ever After.
Along the way there were missed connections and travails that spanned continents.
And that's just the early chapter of the love story of Chicago graduate students Ditte Munch-Hansen, 31, and Pedja Jurisic, 29.
The journey begins in early June 2006 when they both attended a human rights conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Ditte's hometown.
"We only knew each other for three days," explains Pedja. Three intense and romantic days. Then Pedja headed for Amsterdam for more human rights work.
But during their brief time together, Pedja mentioned he was planning a trip later that summer to Bosnia and Croatia. He hadn't been back since his Bosnian family fled to the U.S. in the early '90s and he wanted to see the old places of his boyhood.
Not usually so carefree and spontaneous — her studies involve war crimes and international conflicts — Ditte impulsively emailed Pedja and invited herself along.
He promised to meet her at the airport. Then he didn't.
Let Ditte pick up the story:
"My friends and family thought I was a little crazy," she says. "I was flying to Croatia to meet this guy who I basically didn't know. … And he didn't show up."
Pedja realizes he has lousy excuses. "I didn't have a cellphone, and transit in the Balkans is not dependable," he says. His bus from Bosnia was terribly late and he decided to trust fate and luck (it wouldn't be the last time). He went directly to the downtown bus station hoping to find her there.
Ditte: "I was terrified. Finally, I decided to take a bus into this big tourist city, Split. I was thinking, how stupid that he wouldn't make sure he was there at the right time. I wasn't sure I wanted to see him again.
"But, there he was — at the bus station." She was relieved but also angry when she spotted him from her seat on the bus. He didn't see her, and she decided to make him sweat.
Pedja: "You made sure to be the last one off the bus."
They spent 10 glorious days together traveling to beautiful old cities like Dubrovnik. And then another sad farewell. She knew by then she was in love with him.
Pedja, however, was a man with an agenda, and it did not include Ditte.
"Ditte was interested in something more serious … and I was interested in going to Morocco for the Peace Corps," he says.
So with Ditte in school in Copenhagen and Pedja in a remote outpost in Morocco, "We just stayed in touch, knowing it could only be friendship," she says.
They wrote to each other sporadically, emails but also "old-fashioned handwritten letters," says Ditte.
During his time with the Peace Corps, Pedja decided he wanted to be with Ditte. But now Ditte didn't want to be with him.
"I was just having a normal life in Denmark. I was graduating, got my first full-time job. I met someone else. A Danish man — very available. Only 20 minutes away on a bike, which is very nice."
But when "Pedja discovered I was out of the relationship, that's when he started this campaign" to persuade Ditte to hop on a plane for a tour of Morocco. It had been more than two years since they'd seen each other.
Wary but still intrigued by this funny, handsome man, Ditte says, "I had vacation time. Why not?"
They had a wonderful adventure. A wonderful 10-day romantic adventure.
But if you're thinking they're finally going to be together for all time, you do not understand Pedja.
"Misplaced priorities," he acknowledges. During their Moroccan idyll, Pedja announced his next plan: "I decided to travel, overland for the most part, from Morocco to South Africa over the course of seven or eight months." After that, he told her, he'd come visit her in Copenhagen. She broke it off.
But we promised a happy ending, so clearly there is more.
Four years after those first three days together, Ditte is in Bosnia (for another conference). Pedja learns somehow when her plane will be arriving back in Copenhagen. This time he is there to greet her at the airport.
Nervously, Pedja asked her, "Is this a good surprise or a bad surprise?" She replied, "I'm not sure."
"I was just shocked to see him," she says, "but also happy."
Pedja's trip to the Copenhagen airport was his now-or-never moment. "I thought it was worth taking a shot. Otherwise, it would be over."
As their history shows, Pedja is charmingly persuasive.
In Copenhagen, Pedja pledged to stay put — with Ditte. "We didn't want a long-distance relationship," he says. Not anymore.
Last fall the couple moved here to study for a year at the University of Chicago. And a few months ago — neither of them remembers the date — Ditte put her arms around him as they sat in their Hyde Park apartment and asked him, in Danish, to marry her. "Vil du gifte dig med mig?"
"I knew, of course, he was going to say yes," she says.
A few days ago, just shy of six years after they first met, the couple took the Metra to the Cook County Building.
There Pedja reached into his pocket and pulled out $10 in coins — change from the train ticket machine — to pay the fee for a civil marriage ceremony. They'll be wed May 26 at the Chicago Cultural Center. They got the last available slot for that day.
Leaning over to kiss the top of Ditte's head, he says, "We're lucky."
"I got the girl in the end. I cut it close, but it worked out."
Love Notes is our new weekly column on love and romance. We will share the joy and challenges of being in a relationship. Most of all, Love Notes is a place for you to share your love stories. After all, we are all romantics at heart.
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