From the moment they accidentally bumped into each other on campus at the University of Illinois, Chicago, in August 2016, Kia Ashley Burks and Anthony Joseph Misiak have believed they were perfectly suited for each other.
“He knows my mind,” said Ms. Burks, 24, who goes by Ashley. “He sees me.”
Unfortunately, there were far less pleasant bumps ahead.
Ms. Burks, who is Black, recalled a time that a man spat in their faces when she and Mr. Misiak, who is 25 and the son of Polish immigrants, were walking down a street in Chicago together.
On public transit, Mr. Misiak overheard people talking about them in Polish, wondering aloud if his parents knew what he was doing.
They did. But when they learned of his new girlfriend, they were “a little shocked,” he said.
The couple met as sophomores, on the day that Ms. Burks had arrived in Chicago after transferring from Pace University in New York. She and her new roommate were leaving a cafeteria on campus when Ms. Burks, not looking where she was going, walked into Mr. Misiak.
It turned out that Mr. Misiak, from Des Plaines, Ill., was a high school classmate of her roommate’s, so the group began chatting. When it came up that she grew up in Reno, Nev., he told her that he had been there and the two commiserated about their mutual disregard for the place. Mr. Misiak left the conversation smitten with Ms. Burks, and spent the next 10 days hoping to run into her again (maybe less literally).
Unfortunately, when that moment came, it was late at night and he was in a stupor, as he put it, during a shift working at the library. Worse, he wasn’t wearing his glasses.
“I didn’t even realize it was her,” he said. When he put his glasses on and recognized his blunder, he turned to Facebook to find her and ask her out.
Their first date began with a trip to the grocery store to buy something to cook for dinner (they chose frozen pizza) and “lasted over eight hours,” Ms. Burks said. “I was never bored, never felt uncomfortable. It was really easy.”
Mr. Misiak began falling in love right away. He said that even as they crossed an ugly bridge over a noisy expressway in downtown Chicago on that date, in his mind, it was as if they were in Paris and beneath them was the Seine. “I look back at it like it was the most romantic place in the world,” he said.
In 2018, two years after they started dating, Mr. Misiak moved in with Ms. Burks, into her apartment off-campus. The following year, in 2019, they hosted both their families at their apartment for Thanksgiving; his cooked traditional dishes, including turkey and pumpkin pie, and hers arrived with butter- and spice-soaked soul food. Afterward, the group played games. Everyone seemed to have a good time, particularly the Misiaks.
“They said, ‘This is the most lively experience we’ve ever had,’” Ms. Burks said.
Mr. Misiak proposed on Valentine’s Day 2021, waking Ms. Burks up before daybreak to ask the question. “I was too excited to wait,” he said.
That August, the couple moved to Durham, N.C. Ms. Burks, who holds a doctorate in occupational therapy from Rush University, now works at UNC Rex Hospital in Raleigh. Mr. Misiak is pursuing a graduate degree in public policy at Duke University.
They were married on June 12, known as Loving Day, which commemorates the day in 1967 that the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Loving v. Virginia. The decision struck down state laws that had restricted interracial marriage. About 50 guests, who included both sets of parents, attended the ceremony at the Royal Sonesta Chicago Downtown. Kaela McBeath, an affiliate of American Marriage Ministries, officiated.
Ms. Burks and Mr. Misiak have celebrated Loving Day every year of their relationship. Said the bride, “After all the trouble and strife we have been through, this is what love looks like.”
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