MAIL OR­DER BRIDE

THE UKRAINE IS A MOD­ERN HOTSPOT FOR WESTERN MEN SEARCH­ING FOR THE PER­FECT WIFE ON­LINE, BUT DOES SUCH A THING EX­IST ANY­MORE OR ARE NAïVE OLDER MEN SIM­PLY FALL­ING INTO A HONEY-TRAP? SARAH GAR­DEN IN­VES­TI­GATES

Emirates Woman - - Features/loveataclick -

A poll of the Emi­rates Woman team un­cov­ers that we all have a rel­a­tively sim­i­lar idea of Mr Right. He’s hand­some, ad­ven­tur­ous, cul­tured, pop­u­lar, ro­man­tic, loyal, emo­tion­ally as­tute, charis­matic, has good teeth and a fine crop of hair, and, of course, a fan­tas­tic sense of hu­mour.

This sounds like ev­ery woman’s dream, right? Wrong. A quick web search pulls up dat­ing profiles of thou­sands of women, many of whom are younger than us, who would forgo our dash­ing comic ge­nius in favour of a ma­ture fam­ily man. This is the new age of mail-or­der brides, where dis­il­lu­sioned Western men pe­ruse on­line candy shops of Ukrainian women and meet them on pack­age hol­i­days known as ‘ro­mance tours’.

“As a man, when you visit the Ukraine you feel as though you’re in heaven,” says Ron­ald Jutte from the Nether­lands, who’s been search­ing for a wife in East­ern Europe for eight years and has set up his own agency, “Ukrainian women are very good wives. They sup­port their man, they love chil­dren and they take care of their fam­ily.” This is the im­age that’s sold on­line: ‘Young, at­trac­tive woman with 1950s ideals seeks man 20 years her se­nior for mar­riage.’ It sounds too good to be true. And, just like the old say­ing goes, it prob­a­bly is.

THE TRO­PHY WIFE

Au­thor and col­lege pro­fes­sor Wal­ter Par­chomenko stud­ied the phe­nom­e­non of East­ern Euro­pean bride shop­ping for his book, Ukrainian & Rus­sian Bride Guide: Dan­gers & Joys Await­ing Western Men. Wal­ter be­lieves that some on­line sites are sell­ing a Step­ford wife-style bride who doesn’t re­ally ex­ist. “Ukrainian dat­ing sites in­ten­tion­ally use the con­cept of tra­di­tional, al­lur­ing young women as an ir­re­sistible mag­net to draw in for­eign men,” Wal­ter ex­plains. “They pro­mote the per­ni­cious myth that all of the women on their sites are cut from the same cloth: tra­di­tional, sub­mis­sive, and love to cook, clean and take care of the fam­ily.”

While there are sites filled with women who are in­deed gen­uinely search­ing for a hus­band from the West, there are many look­ing to take ad­van­tage of naïve men. It’s be­come such a wide­spread prob­lem that the US em­bassy in Kiev, the cap­i­tal of Ukraine, has a whole sec­tion on mar­riage and dat­ing scams. Along with a list of of­fi­cial ad­vice, the em­bassy rec­om­mends be­ing wary of pho­to­graphs dis­play­ing “a very at­trac­tive per­son, [that ap­pears] to have been taken at a pro­fes­sional modelling agency or photo stu­dio”.

“AS A MAN, WHENYOU VISIT THE UKRAINE YOU FEEL AS THOUGH YOU’RE IN HEAVEN”

The scam works so well as an ir­re­sistible woman is the bait. Not only is she ad­ver­tis­ing her­self as an ex­em­plary wife with fam­ily val­ues, she’s also got looks akin to a Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret model. It can be said it’s a misog­y­nist’s dream. “Western men are their own worst en­emy when they search mar­riage sites,” ex­plains Wal­ter. “They of­ten see red flags but try to jus­tify these warn­ing signs so they don’t in­ter­fere with their fan­tasy of hav­ing found the per­fect woman.”

How­ever, Wal­ter rea­sons that their pri­mary mo­ti­va­tion is much more su­per­fi­cial than a de­sire for by­gone gen­der roles. “Let’s be hon­est, most western men turn to Ukraine to up­grade,” he says. “They want the kind of woman who wouldn’t give them a glance back home. For ex­am­ple, a large num­ber of women aged be­tween 18 and 24 in­di­cate a sus­pi­cious will­ing­ness to be with a part­ner at least 25 years older than them. Youth and beauty clearly trump men’s stated in­ter­est in a tra­di­tional wife.”

“THE COST OF A TYP­I­CAL TWO-WEEK ROMANCETOUR IS US$5,000 AND CAN PRO­DUCE ZERO RE­SULTS IN FIND­ING A PO­TEN­TIAL BRIDE. YET MANY MEN

I’VE SUR­VEYED RE­PORT BOOK­ING BACK-TO-BACK

TOURS”

Ron­ald’s first re­la­tion­ship with an East­ern Euro­pean lady be­gan when he “fell im­me­di­ately in love with her photo”. But even though he paid a lot of money for her to visit him in his home­land, his home­sick love in­ter­est cut the trip short, and he was left feel­ing that he’d been used for a free hol­i­day. “Many dif­fer­ent [scams] have hap­pened dur­ing my search,” says Ron­ald. “Agencies and ladies work to­gether and they earn money for dates, trans­lat­ing, taxis etc, but you have no real chance of a re­la­tion­ship with them.”

Ron­ald has also wired money to a woman for a plane ticket that was never pur­chased and forked out for un­nec­es­sary English lessons. “It’s hard to see it be­cause you trust the lady,” ex­plains Ron­ald. “It’s even more dif­fi­cult to see when you are in love. Some­times you find out when it’s much too late.”

Wal­ter warns that free web­sites of­ten have the high­est con-artist pop­u­la­tion. “They are scam rid­den and full of pros­ti­tutes, pro­fes­sional daters and men mas­querad­ing as women,” he says. “A man’s on­line spe­cial lady can only be a per­fect stranger un­til they meet. And this per­fect stranger is prob­a­bly re­ceiv­ing gifts from mul­ti­ple men.”

Dat­ing agencies of­fer gift­giv­ing ser­vices, but ac­cept­ing flow­ers and chocolates un­der false pre­tenses is noth­ing com­pared to the thou­sands of dirhams that many love-struck men are swin­dled out of. Their mirac­u­lously un­lucky belles will en­counter visa prob­lems, stolen credit cards, and costly med­i­cal bills – there’s al­ways one more rea­son why they can’t meet, and one more rea­son why they need more money. De­spite the fact that only around five per cent of men emerge from be­hind their com­puter screen and travel to Ukraine to meet a po­ten­tial bride, ‘ro­mance tours’ are big busi­ness. These ex­pen­sive pack­age hol­i­days of­fer men the chance to visit cities such as Odessa, which have a no­to­ri­ous fe­male to male dis­crep­ancy, and at­tend ‘so­cials’ – events where 20 to 30 men min­gle with around 100 and 300 women.

Ro­mance tours are some­thing that Ron­ald has al­ways avoided. “They’re more for en­ter­tain­ment and profit for the dat­ing agency. Your chance of find­ing some­one spe­cial on a trip is ex­tremely low,” he says. “Pro­fes­sional daters are present there. For this rea­son, I tend to go in­de­pen­dently and meet ladies I’ve been pre­vi­ously cor­re­spond­ing with.”

This is a strat­egy that Wal­ter agrees with. “The cost of a typ­i­cal two-week ro­mance tour is US$5,000 and can pro­duce zero re­sults in find­ing a po­ten­tial bride. Yet many men I’ve sur­veyed re­port book­ing back-to-back tours,” he says. “These tours are not for se­ri­ous men look­ing for mar­riage­minded Ukrainian women. Typ­i­cally, about 20 mid­dle-aged for­eign men will be pa­raded be­fore around 100 sus­pi­ciously young look­ing women in a meat­mar­ket, happy hour en­vi­ron­ment.” Whether on ro­mance tours or trav­el­ling in­de­pen­dently, there’s one tool ev­ery bride-bag­ger needs: a trans­la­tor. These people are the key to blos­som­ing re­la­tion­ships and, in some cases, the in­te­gral cog in prof­itable scams. “Many agencies of­fer ex­pen­sive trans­la­tion ser­vices. How­ever, pro­fes­sional daters in Ukraine com­monly en­gage in trans­la­tor fraud schemes, in­clud­ing hid­ing the fact that they have good English-lan­guage abil­ity.”

How­ever, be­fore you write off all Ukrainian women as black wid­ows, meet Ga­lyna Tate, one of the suc­cess sto­ries. She and her hus­band met through a friend who was work­ing as a trans­la­tor at a mar­riage agency. “My friend was his in­ter­preter when he was vis­it­ing Ukraine, and she thought we’d be a good match,” ex­plains Ga­lyna. “At the time, I wasn’t in­ter­ested in for­eign men be­cause I didn’t want to leave my coun­try. I agreed to meet him and we fell in love al­most in­stantly.” Ga­lyna and her hus­band have been to­gether for seven-and-a-half years, and mar­ried for four. They now live and work to­gether in the USA.

As an ed­u­cated woman who re­mains in­ter­ested in Ukrainian de­vel­op­ment, Ga­lyna blogs about a range of topics in­clud­ing mail-or­der brides on galy­natate. word­press.com. She ex­plains there’s a very nar­row-minded view of Ukrainian women, which is now dated. “Women in the Ukraine used to be des­per­ate to leave their dis­tressed word in search of a bet­ter life,” she says. “These days the eco­nomic state is much bet­ter and women are ed­u­cated – they’re not go­ing to marry a man they’ve never met. Men don’t choose, even if they think they do. Women choose.”

On first glance, it seems that in­no­cent young women are be­ing used by older men as a tro­phy wives, and that they, in their des­o­late state, have lit­tle op­tion. On closer in­spec­tion, these ap­pear to be shrewd women, en­ter­pris­ing on their looks in or­der to take ad­van­tage of an old mailorder bride dream that’s dy­ing out. While there’s hope of ob­tain­ing a beau­ti­ful do­mes­tic god­dess, no mat­ter how er­ro­neous, some men will con­tinue to fall into the honey-trap. But then again, we shouldn’t judge. The hand­some, ad­ven­tur­ous, cul­tured, pop­u­lar, ro­man­tic, loyal, emo­tion­ally as­tute, toothy, charis­matic, hairy, hu­mor­ous man we dreamt up is prob­a­bly just as il­lu­sive. n

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