facebook twitter

There are 28 active conflicts around the world at this very moment.

Over the past year, CNN has collected letters written between loved ones who have been in the path of past and present hostilities.

Below are five of those letters.

These true stories show that love can endure the worst pains of war.

Karl's letter


“Being in danger for seven months so me, you and our family can live a happy life, is a fair trade.”

Mario's letter


“It’s very hard to write a letter to say goodbye in case I die.”

Nahla's letter


“We were afraid of losing the fight…until you showed up in our life, you embraced me with passion, gave me energy to love again.”

Yana's letter


“My dear daughter, I really miss you. You are always in my heart.”

Kim's letter


“I wonder how much you had to weep during all those years left alone.”





Karl's letter


In 2011, Marine Lieutenant Karl Kurbikoff was sent on his first deployment to Afghanistan.

His wife, Lisa, was at home taking care of their son, Alex, while pregnant with their second child. The United States military had been active in the country for almost a decade, but by 2011 was beginning to draw down its forces, with some 10,000 troops due to pull out by the end of the year. During the many months he was away, Karl wrote Lisa a letter.

“This letter meant everything to me,” Lisa told CNN, “because I knew he was in the middle of nowhere and was so busy, day and night.”

In it Karl wrote about how being in danger was worth it, if it meant that his family could have a happy life. Shortly after sending the letter Karl’s vehicle hit a 70-pound improvised explosive device.

Extraordinarily, he survived the explosion, but temporarily lost his sight and hearing. His sight has returned, but he is deaf in his left ear and still suffers from headaches. Karl stayed in the Marine Corps and has since been promoted to captain.

The letter is now framed, next to their bedside in California, as a daily reminder of how lucky they were that Karl came home alive to her and their two children, Alex and Marisa.

1st Lt. Karl Kurbikoff kisses the head of his new daughter Marisa upon returning from his deployment to Afghanistan.
Credit: Lisa Kurbikoff

Karl with his wife Lisa and children, Alex and Marisa.
Credit: Lisa Kurbikoff

“Being in danger for seven months so me, you and our family can live a happy life, is a fair trade.”

Karl Kurbikoff


My beautiful wife,

It's about 5 pm my time and it just started to cool down for the day. It's about 95 degrees now, hoping for 85.

I got off patrol a little while ago and just finished dinner. I have to say, one thing I miss more than you and Alex is your cooking. Being out here makes you realize how lucky we are to have our own home and freedoms.

I never thought cold water would be a luxury but here it is more than ever.

Everything my guys and I are doing each day and what we have to endure is just a small sacrifice so we can enjoy our lives back home. Being in danger for 7 months so me you and our family can live a happy life is a fair trade. To have such a supporting and understanding wife is another reason of why I am so lucky.

When I have some time to myself or at night if I am not doing much my thoughts always go to you Alex and Marisa. I think of how what we have, especially in today's world, is so hard to find. I have an amazing wife and here in another month or so, two beautiful children. I couldn't ask for more and my life is set before me to live happy for a long, long time.

We are going to be able to give our children a wonderful life and something I am going to teach them, especially after being out here, is not to take things for granted and to cherish happy times and of course, to never give up.

I cannot wait to be able to hug and kiss you, alex and Marisa. I miss all of you so much and I cannot wait to be back home with my family.

All of my love,






Mario's letter


Mario Giraldez and Monica Ávila grew up in the same northern suburb of Buenos Aires, in Argentina. They were introduced in 1978 by Monica’s younger brother, Ariel, who thought Mario would be a good match for his sister.

“He made all arrangements for a smooth introduction,” Monica remembers.

They fell madly in love.

But their romance was interrupted in 1982 when hostilities broke out between Argentina and Britain over the Falkland Islands.

Mario was assigned to the “General Viamonte” 6th Mechanized Infantry Regiment. He said goodbye to Monica on April 12 and shortly after sent her this letter in case he didn’t return home.

Based at Two Sisters Ridge, he fought against the British forces pushing into Port Stanley. 900 people died in the 74-day conflict.

Fortunately, Mario survived and was reunited with Monica shortly after the war ended.

“I will never forget that reunion and have not left his side since,” Monica told CNN.

They were married two years later on June 19, 1984. Today, they are still inseparable and have three children and four grandchildren. Letters like Mario’s are an important part of the war’s history for Argentinians.

Mónica and Mario Giraldez stand together in their kitchen in Buenos Aires.
Credit: Monica and Mario Giraldez

Old photos of Mónica and Mario Giraldez and an invitation to their vow renewal ceremony after 25 years of marriage.
Credit: Monica and Mario Giraldez

“It’s very hard to write a letter to say goodbye in case I die.”

Mario Giraldez


Dear Monica,

I hope this war doesn´t touch you directly and that upon receiving this letter you and your family are well.

It’s very hard to write a letter to say goodbye in case I die while I´m still alive, but I feel it’s necessary.

I’d like to ask you to remember me well, if I ever made a mistake, I’d like to ask you forgive me and remember me in the best way; I’d also like to ask you find someone else, get married, and give him the love you saved for me.

I’d like you to find a man, not a boy like me, find that man and give him your love, that love I got a taste of.

Take care of “Mother Olga” and give her a kiss for me and ask her to forgive me for the times I wronged her. Take care of your father and love him, because everything he does and did was because he loves you, for your own good.

One more thing, and I´d like to have your word on this, that you´ll address them as Mom and Dad, like every daughter addresses their parents

I say goodbye and you can be sure that if in the afterlife there´s love, I will never stop doing it.

God willing, you´ll find a man worthy of you, Mario E. Giraldez





Nahla's letter


Nahla al-Nadawi’s first husband was killed by a car bomb in Baghdad in April 2007. The suicide bomber detonated at a checkpoint on al-Jadiryah Bridge, killing 10 people. When Nahla received her husband’s body from the morgue at the Yarmouk Hospital, it was a “completely burnt skeleton,” she said.

"Suddenly this scorched thing is the same thing that used to be a beating heart, standing next to you in life," she said, pain etched across her face.

Those steps toward the hospital morgue played out over and over again in her mind.

"I remember a blue-colored sheet covering something. At one end the pigtails of a little girl with red ribbons, on the other a tiny foot. The sheet was drenched in blood,” she says.

“At that moment I forgot why I was standing there. I was crying for all those other people."

She was left widowed at the height of the Iraq civil war with her young autistic son, Osaid. CNN met her a year later in 2008, when she was working at a radio station, and has followed her story ever since.

Nahla wasn’t expecting to fall in love again, but then she found Aqeel. When they met in 2009, at a gathering for Iraqi women organized by an NGO, it was love at "first glance."

They married in 2014 and still live in Baghdad, where Nahla teaches Arabic to foreign students. Aqeel has helped Osaid to grow in confidence and recently they all traveled to Europe for a long-awaited family trip. Nahla’s love and appreciation for Aqeel during that traumatic time is conveyed beautifully in her letter to him.

Nahla, Aqeel and Osaid on their family trip to Europe.
Credit: Nahla al-Nadawi

Nahla and Aqeel share a moment.
Credit: Nahla al-Nadawi

“We were afraid of losing the fight…until you showed up in our life, you embraced me with passion, gave me energy to love again.”

Nahla al-Nadawi


To my sweetheart Aqeel,

Remember the first time we met? I was in black, holding the hand of my 7 years old boy. At that time, both Osaid (my son) and myself were miserable people, after we lost his dad in a bombing that took place on the AlJadiriyah Bridge in Baghdad in April 2007. Tens of people were killed on that day. We received my husband’s body from the morgue at the Yarmouk Hospital. It was a completely burnt skeleton.

This was not the only reason we were miserable. My son was autistic, as you know. At that time, Iraq, our country, was just coming out of a terrible civil war caused by political differences and fights over authority and power. Remember, Aqeel, how Baghdad at that time entered into an era of violence?The streets have turned into cemeteries with dead bodies thrown everywhere.

Amongst all of this, I was going through ajourney of struggle against autism with my son. We felt lonely, despite the fact that we had many members of our family and friends around us. We were afraid of losing the fight, until you showed up in our life.

Our love story started with that first glance, but our marriage came late. We were so afraid of our differences and our fights, which are caused by our two different backgrounds and the generations each of us comes from. Both of us carry heavy legacies of personal struggles, like any other Iraqi who lives through previous political regimes.

Days have gone by, and our love continued to grow. We accepted our differences, and our fights decreased. Six years later, we found commonalities between us, and that’s when we decided to get married. You embraced me with passion, gave me energy to love again. You were Osaid’s new father, gave him confidence, and took him from childhood to adulthood. You taught him swimming and shaving. You took him through the streets of Baghdad in the car or just for a walk. You were discovering the new safe Baghdad, but at the same time remained cautious and worried.

To my soul mate and beloved husband Aqeel:

All days are worthy because of your love, but Valentine’s is so special. It gives us an opportunity to express our feelings to those we love. I understand the core of love is bigger than individuals and their love stories, but it can be expressed through their experiences. Our story could be one of many expressing love and its warmth. With all that, I will continue to dream of a love letter that we write together; you, Osaid, and me, on Valentines’ day. A letter that tells the stories of young Iraqis who work together to carry our beloved country away from wars and battles to new landscapes, where kids are playing and laughing, while enjoying safety. This new place will also see beautiful young Iraqi women planting and getting ready for the crops season, singing beautiful songs they inherited from their old ( Sumerian ) grandmothers, who discovered agriculture in the earlier history, and spread it to the rest of the world.

I know you are dreaming of writing this letter with me, and until then, my love to you will continue forever.






Yana's letter


Yana Galang’s life was changed forever on April 14, 2014. Her 17-year-old daughter, Rifkatu, was at boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria, for her final week of exams. Boko Haram extremists stormed the school and kidnapped her from her bed.

In total 276 girls, ages 16 to 18, were taken that night. The raid made international headlines and spawned a social-media campaign with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. It was supported by global figures such as Malala Yousafzai and Michelle Obama.

Yana become a leader of the Chibok Missing Girls association, a group formed by the parents of the girls. But there was little news of the girls' fate for the first two years.

Then in April 2016, CNN received a proof-of-life video showing that many of them were still alive. Yana was one of the parents who helped verify that the video was authentic. She sobbed as she watched it again and again, looking for any sign of her own daughter.

"I didn't see my daughter, but I now have more hope that she is alive," she told CNN at the time. "All we want is our daughters."

Over the past three years some of the girls have escaped or been released, but more than 100 – including Rifkatu – have not been seen or heard from.

Yana wrote this letter in the hope that Rifkatu would hear of it and know that her mother loves her and is still looking for her.

Yana Galang, the mother of Rifkatu.
Credit: Stefan Heunis/AFP/Getty Images.

Yana holds a phone with a picture of her daughter.
Credit: Stefan Heunis/AFP/Getty Images.

“My dear daughter, I really miss you. You are always in my heart.”

Yana Galang


My dear daughter,

I really miss you. You are a very kind girl, and very hard working. You are always in the middle of my heart. Of all my three daughters you are the world.

My parents usually call you junior Jena because of how you resemble me.

Of all of your three sisters you are the one who shows your real love to me.

If my hair was untidy you used to take it off and wash it and plait it by yourself. You always make sure everything in the house is neat and perfect.

I remember that day, the time of your abduction. You were not well. You were just having your appendix operation and you were still taking medication.

I don’t know if you are okay. What happened to you I don’t know. If you have good food or a good shelter? I don’t know. Every time I remember you I always shed tears.

As a mother I really miss you and I feel so much pain. All the time - I remember you.

The last time I showed you where to go to school, to study with your sisters, was the very day of the abduction. Your father gives you 1000 lira to buy such items, like food items, and you buy and toothbrush and left me 215 lira change and you bought it back to your father and your father laughed at you. The last word to your father says – ‘don’t you want to have money in your hand at school?’ and he laughed at you. Your daddy said take the remaining money. You are so polite to your daddy, say thank you daddy.

Your daddy took you to school to drop you off. Later that night I heard the gunshots around 11:35 pm around the school area. I never expected that something like this would ever happen. I thought you had been safe, ran away.

I remember hearing that you had been abducted. I got headache, stomach pain, at the same time, and I felt my worry was going to be collapse.

I know that you are a strong, faithful girl and you can deliver all these qualities in your life.

You are obedient with everybody and with every situation. Come and wait for the will of god in you. You are alive, thank you.

Think of you always. Think of you always. Think of you always my daughter.





Kim's letter


Kim Kyung Jae hasn’t seen his family in more than 65 years.

He was separated from them during the Korean War in the 1950s. The conflict – pitting North Korea, backed by China and the Soviet Union, against South Korea, which was supported by the United States and its allies - caused the deaths of almost three million people.

At the age of just 19, Kim fled the North and followed the Western allied forces as they retreated south.

"My parents and grandparents stayed in the North with my youngest sister because she was only nine years and my grandparents were too frail for such a rough journey," Kim told CNN.

When the war ended, a 160-mile long, 2.5-mile wide demilitarized zone was established dividing North and South Korea, making Kim’s separation permanent.

"I thought that I could return home in a few months ... had I known that I would never be able to go back, I would not have left my family," Kim said.

Kim never gave up looking for his family in North Korea. More than 45 years later he was given a glimmer of hope.

"Finally, in 1998 I was able to confirm that my sister was still alive in North Korea through a former neighbour,” said Kim.

He hired brokers, who specialize in secretly locating family members in the North, and found his sister.

They have exchanged letters ever since and even managed several phone calls. Kim hopes that one day they may be able to meet again.

The aftermath of an air raid by U.S. planes over Pyongyang, the Communist capital of North Korea during the Korean War.
Credit: Keystone/Getty Images.

Koreans leave in a mass exodus from battle areas in North Korea during the Korean War, circa 1950s.
Credit: Authenticated News/Getty Images.

“I wonder how much you had to weep during all those years left alone.”

Kim Kyung Jae


To my lovely sister Sookja.

For the first time this year, it was snowing heavily today here.Like the day on Dec. 8, 1950 when I boarded a ship on our hometown pier without a destination and a plan. That day, it was snowing heavily in my heart.

I still vividly remember you standing on the pier.

I was 19 years old. You were 10.Now I have turn into an 86-year-old man. You must have also become a 77-year-old grandmother.I wonder how much you had to weep during all those years, left alone to arrange funerals for our grandfather, grandmother, father and mother.

My heart aches every time I think of you. You must have shed many tears for being left alone to deal with all those difficult situations.

Sookja, now this has become a story of a long past and wouldn’t give you solace. But as a brother, I’d would like to thank you for your sacrifice and hard work. I am sorry.I really do hope there will be a time that I can repay you for the many tears.

Sookja, I miss you dearly.Sometimes, I get to see the pictures of our home town taken by a satellite. I cry as I try to remember what our house was like and the fun time we had playing on the beach by looking through the satellite pictures.

I really really miss you, Sookja.

It is regrettable that we are powerless and that it is unlikely we will meet again in our era.

I have so many others things to tell you.I cannot write them all down.But at least I hope you understand that I have not forgotten about you.

Sookja. I can only pray for your health again and again.

January 2017, from Kyungjae, Your Brother.