Valentine's Day: Love blossoms at Expo 2020 Dubai

A Lithuanian-Italian couple share how the iconic event being held in the city brought them together.


Sandhya D'Mello

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Photo: Neeraj Murali
Photo: Neeraj Murali

Published: Sun 13 Feb 2022, 5:28 PM

Last updated: Sun 13 Feb 2022, 10:53 PM

She is Lithuanian, and he is from Italy. She is a specialist in cultural policy and management, and he is a journalist turned communication expert.

The two meet in Dubai, and they fall in love. They are set to be married soon. What sets this love story apart is that it blossomed on the sidelines of an iconic event being held in UAE, Expo 2020 Dubai.

Thirty-two-year-old Austeja Brasiunaite met her soon-to-be husband Cristian Lanzanova, 40, during the 2019 International Participants Meetings of Expo 2020 Dubai.

“We met during the preparation for Expo 2020 Dubai in one of the International Participants Meetings (IPM). The meeting took place at the beautiful Madinat Jumeirah. Cristian knew my colleague and boss, and he came over to talk to them, and that is when we got introduced,” Brasiunaite told City Times.

Lanzanova says: “My life changed in November 2019.”

There is a good chance that journalists covering Expo 2020 Dubai would have interacted with the ever-smiling and always helpful Lanzanova. He is a director of a Milan headquartered communications agency and works with several pavilions at the Expo.

“My association with the Expos began with the 2015 edition, where we managed communications of Malaysia and Thailand pavilions. In the mini Expo in Astana in 2017, we got to work with Georgia and the Vatican. Here in Dubai, we are privileged to be working with Angola, Brazil, Chile, Kuwait, Switzerland and the Republic of Guinea,” he said.

Brasiunaite is the project manager of the Lithuanian pavilion.

“I joined the team in February 2018. I’m super excited and find it a great experience and growth for me. From managing events locally in Lithuania, I manage events in our country’s pavilion while presenting various aspects of my country and collaborating with other International Participants,” she said.

Getting to know each other

From the time they first met until Expo 2020 Dubai began in October 2021, Brasiunate and Lanzanova took breaks from their work to spend time with one another. Lanzanova would travel to Vilnius and meet Brasiunate and her mother. Brasiunate spent time in Monza and met the Lanzanova family.

“I love Cristian’s personality, calmness and gentleness with people. He is a real uplifter. I notice how people like to talk to him; it’s like he brings out the best in them,” Brasiunaite said. “The best thing is we laugh so much together,” she added.

Lanzanova said: “It seems I have known her for many years now, and still I discover something new about her.”

Sometime in 2020, during one of his trips to Lithuania, Lanzanova popped the question, and to his delight, Brasiunate didn’t disappoint him.

“Expo 2020 Dubai has united us and allows us to see each other every day. Most days, we are busy in the mornings. We meet and visit the pavilions in the evenings and walk around the beautiful premises. There are so many options to relax and have dinner on the site. The evenings are the favourite time of the day, undoubtedly,” Lanzanova said.

Brasiunate echoes the sentiment.

“I love this phase in our relationship. The place (Expo 2020 Dubai), the people and the entire setting make it seem like a dream,” she said.

They plan to get married after Expo 2020 Dubai concludes.

“In Lithuania, we have a saying: a shoemaker is often without new shoes! I am so focused on the Expo right now that I have not been able to think about my wedding,” she said, adding, “We both think it would be in April 2022. We both want a romantic and private type of wedding, and I’d prefer somewhere on the beach with only a few friends. To keep it simple and very intimate, to keep all attention on one another on this special occasion.”

Connecting hearts is not the tagline of Expo 2020 Dubai, but it seems to have achieved that too.

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