Parallel Lives Converge, With Help From an App

Daniil Kalyuzhny and Nina Naydenova disagree about the nature of their first meeting. In 2016, Mr. Kalyuzhny, then an M.B.A. student at Cornell University, attended a recruiting event for business school students at J.P. Morgan Chase & Company, where Ms. Naydenova is an executive director of mergers and acquisitions. She describes the encounter as an interview, while he considers it more of an interrogation. What they do agree on is that not even the faintest spark flew.

“Nina asked me questions rapid fire on why I wanted to be a banker,” Mr. Kalyuzhny recalled. “Let’s just say the meeting was intimidating, and no sparks flew, just sweat.”

Mr. Kalyuzhny, 33, is now a vice president of investment banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. A graduate of Manhattan College with a M.B.A. from Cornell, he immigrated to America with his family from Odessa, Ukraine, when he was 2, settling in Passaic, N.J. and later moving to Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Ms. Naydenova, 33, is a graduate of Cornell and first came to America with her mother and brother, following her father, from Etropole, Bulgaria, when she was 6. When she was 8, along with her mother and brother, she went back to Bulgaria for a year because of visa issues, returning to America for good when she was 9 and settling in Clifton, N.J., a mile from Passaic.

After reconnecting on the dating app The League, Mr. Kalyuzhny and Ms. Naydenova went on a first date to Dear Irving, a bar in Gramercy Park, in May 2017. Over four hours, he had four cocktails; she, a glass of white wine. Ms. Naydenova left thinking she’d like to see Mr. Kalyuzhny again, but she played it cool.

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“I wasn’t getting my hopes up,” Ms. Naydenova said. “I had been dating a lot and I was super jaded.”

On their second date, they picnicked in Central Park. More casual dates followed, then Mr. Kalyuzhny upped the ante by suggesting they spend a long weekend in Jamaica over the July 4 holiday. After stalling long enough for the airfare to increase, Ms. Naydenova agreed. The trip would solidify their relationship.

Mr. Kalyuzhny is Jewish and Ms. Naydenova is Orthodox Christian, though neither come from religious families. They cite their time at Cornell and careers in finance as undeniable commonalities, along with their shared immigrant experience.

“Although we grew up here and mostly pass as American, our families are not,” said Ms. Naydenova, whose native language, Bulgarian, is written in the same Cyrillic alphabet as Mr. Kalyuzhny’s native language, Russian.

By August 2019, they were living together in a West Village loft and Mr. Kalyuzhny asked Ms. Naydenova to block out some time on her calendar for another picnic. While she was working out, he added a new page to a relationship scrapbook she kept, proposing the all-important question.

As they picnicked on a knoll overlooking the West Side Highway, Ms. Naydenova flipped through the scrapbook. When she got to the newly added page, Mr. Kalyuzhny pulled out a ring. Later, the couple returned to their loft, where friends surprised them with a pyramid of Ladurée macarons, one of Ms. Naydenova’s favorite confections.

They initially planned to marry in July 2020, but postponed because of the Coronavirus — first to July 2021, then again to Sept. 11, when the couple was married before roughly 100 vaccinated guests in a socially-distant ceremony at Chelsea Piers. The Rev. Susanna Stefanachi Macomb, an interfaith minister ordained by the New Seminary, officiated.

“Nina just feels like my true partner in every way,” said Mr. Kalyuzhny.

“I can be completely myself with Daniil,” Ms. Naydenova said. “Even when I’m weird and awkward.”