Halyna Hutchins' Friends Remember Her, Describe Her Marriage to Husband Matthew as 'Beautiful'

The couple, married for 16 years, "had this beautiful partnership. . . . [They] supported each other's dreams," a friend tells PEOPLE

Theirs was a storybook romance from the beginning.

While Halyna Hutchins was a journalist and living in her native Ukraine, she met a guy named Matthew and "he fell in love with her," says Halyna's friend Victoria Janashvili.

But Halyna wasn't so sure about Matthew. So Matthew moved to the Ukraine to "pursue her and convince her to move to the United States," Janashvili recalls. "Eventually she gave in."

Halyna would join Matthew as he attended Harvard Law School, her friend says, and later gave birth to their son, Andros, now 9.

The couple "had this beautiful partnership. . . . [They] supported each other's dreams," Janashvili tells PEOPLE in this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.

Olesia Saveleva and Halyna, Santa Monica, July, 2020
Courtesy of Olesia Saveleva

In 2015, Halyna had pursued her dream of embarking on a career as a cinematographer, earning a degree in the field from the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles. She was working as the Director of Photography for the movie Rust when the film's star, Alec Baldwin, accidentally misfired a prop gun on the the Santa Fe, New Mexico set of the Western, killing Hutchins, 42, last Thursday and injuring director Joel Souza.

Helena, Stephen Pizzello and two other friends at a Netflix promo event
Courtesy of Stephen Pizzello

On Friday, Matthew, 38, who was married to Halyna for 16 years, shared a message on Twitter, along with a photo of his wife and Andros: "Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision...Our loss is enormous…," he wrote.

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Her loss is incomprehensible for Halyna's friends. "Your very good friend just got shot and killed by Alec Baldwin? It didn't sound real — or even possible," her pal Rachel Mason tells PEOPLE.

For more on the shooting on the Rust set, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

Stephen Pizzello, who met Halyna at a film festival in Poland about seven years ago, remembers a fun-loving woman who "had this mischievous streak."

"She just had sort of this playful spirit and conspiratorial sense of humor," says Pizzello, editor-in-chief of American Cinematographer magazine.

Jendra Jarnagin, Halyna house party 2020
Courtesy of Jendra Jarnagin

Halyna, Matthew and Andros attended many a backyard party at Pizzello's Los Angeles home. He describes Matthew and Halyna as having a "rock solid" relationship.

"They would come over, and we all kind of clicked as a group because we always admired their relationship," says Pizzello.

"Matt always was amazingly supportive of her career," he continues. "She was totally devoted to him and their son, but he also made a lot of sacrifices to enable her to do what she was doing."

Olesia Saveleva, Halyna, son, and a friend Santa Monica, July 2020
Courtesy of Olesia Saveleva

The demands of the profession took Halyna away from her family while shooting a movie or attending film festivals, but "she was always thinking about them when we were on trips," says Pizzello.

Another close friend of the couple, cinematographer Olesia Saveleva, tells PEOPLE she especially admired Halyna's ability to raise her family and meet the demands of her challenging career.

"To have a family and be a successful cinematographer, it's just so hard to combine those things," she says. "So yeah, she was a role model for all of us."

The investigation into the Rust shooting remains ongoing, with production halted, and no charges have been made.

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