Taking advantage of the poor and desperate...
The ratio of women to men can be ten
to one, or 'about as close to paradise as you get,' according to a
balding Home Counties civil servant on his first visit to Ukraine.
to the mail-order bride industry in the old Soviet Union, aimed heavily
at British and American men who have failed to find love at home.
lot of the blokes here think we've died and gone to heaven,' said the
tubby 47 year old who works for a Home Office agency as he eyed a gaggle
of revealingly dressed young women who would not have seemed out of
place on a Parisian catwalk.
Western men typically pay between £1,500 and
£3,000 to visit several former Soviet cities on tours where they hope to
meet their future bride
Many fear that vulnerable women, promised a
better life with a foreign, often much older man,who they may know very
little about, are being taken advantage of by the industry,
Typically men pay between £1,500 and
£3,000 to visit several former Soviet cities on tours which are
'designed so that all you have to concern yourself with is meeting as
many women as possible.'
of the scenes in our pictures are from a 'Romance Tour' to the
Ukrainian capital of Kiev but such images are repeated across the old
Soviet empire from Volgograd to Veliky Novgorod.
if Ukraine is known for its basket case economy, the dating market -
critics prefer the term 'cattle market' - appears to be thriving, eased
in part by far easier visa rules than to Russia, and a number of other
former states in the fallen USSR.
Yet as we will see, a strong
backlash is on the way after bloggers posted these and similar images
online, leading to readers posing such awkward questions as: 'What does
it say about our countries that our women are offered like this to such
men, some of them looking like degenerate grandfathers' and 'How can our
women humiliate themselves in such a way?'
men are promised that, at 'Socials' as in the pictures here, they will
be in the company of 'sincere, young, beautiful women who believe in
They are feverishly told to expect to meet 'more beautiful women in 11 days than you will in five years'.
Socials typically involves some 15 to 25 men
being introduced to 150 to 250 women, often having to communicate via an
Some women say they attend the socials as their only other choice is economic deprivation, and abusive men
At these occasions, typically
some 15 to 25 men will be introduced to 150 to 250 women, often having
to communicate via an interpreter. Many of the men are often double the
age, or more, of the women.
ease things along both sexes carry large name tags on their lapels. The
women are also numbered - 'like in a slave market', as one blog comment
clients date up to five ladies per day,' boasts the website of 'A
Foreign Affair', which offers single Western men tours to a number of
locations including Russia and Ukraine.
Kiev Romance Tour offers you the unique opportunity to visit one of the
most historic cities in all of the former Soviet Union, while at the
same time meet thousands of beautiful Ukrainian women,' it states.
Kiev Romance Tours provide you with an extremely effective means to
meet as many women as possible so you can find that special one.'
Many men claim they use the tours to family women with 'family values', while the women see it as a means of escape
Kiev, they emphasise, 'is an absolutely charming city, its charm is matched only by the women residing there'.
such tours include one or two other cities as Western men scour eastern
Europe for their perfect match. These can be provincial cities where
the standard of living is lower and, say critics, 'our women maybe more
likely to fall for a foreigner, however unsuitable he may be'.
As one site says about the backwater of Poltava: 'Both the city and the women are enjoyable.
'Poltava has contributed some of the best Socials our company has ever had the privilege to host.
Poltava women with their relaxed an easy-going, smaller city attitude
help to make our stay one of the most enjoyable two days on any of our
exciting single tours.'
Men are willing to pay large amounts and travel
on the tours to find a wife or partner, despite often having very little
The civil servant - like many
on such trips he is is keen on retaining his anonymity - told me: 'I've
got a failed marriage behind me and several subsequent relationships did
not work out.
'I want a traditional wife and a lot of the other men out here with me say the same.
home, our women have been brought up to be independent, live their own
lives, and not care for their men in the way our mothers used to.
that's fine but I want someone who is a traditional housewife. If we
have kids, she stays at home looking after them. Is that so wrong?'
Websites like 'A Foreign Affair' often make claims to men such as 'Our clients date up to five ladies per day'
He was attracted to pay for his
tour by hearing that Russian and Ukrainian women 'are not polluted by
all this feminist stuff', he said, before continuing his search for his
This is a frequent theme by men at such events.
want an old-fashioned girl brought up in a strict family,' admitted Jim
DiGregorio, then 68, from Arizona, in a report on the bride searching
phenomenon in eastern Europe by Sky News in 2011.
should come from a family where maybe Papa was in charge so she's used
to a man being in charge. I prefer to be captain of my ship.'
aim in signing up with another agency, AnastasiaDate.com, was to find a
woman as much as a third of his age and he had flown halfway around the
world because the women here are 'traditional and sexy'. He is far from
alone in such aims.
When one Russian blog posted pictures from such dating sessions, hundreds of angry comments, many unprintable, poured in.
Despite its controversy, the industry of
'romance tours' is proving hugely popular amongst British and American
men in particular
Many of the men who go looking for love in Soviet countries are often double the age, or more, of the women
At the 'socials' the women pose in bikinis,or walk balancing a weight on their heads to show off their bodies
'She sold herself for Coca-Cola,' said one.
'This is a parade of geriatrics,' said another. 'What are these women doing with these old men?'
The web went into overdrive as the pictures were reposted.
comment from a woman called Nadia under a picture of a large American
man and a young, slim woman said: 'How much must you like money to go
A reply came back: 'Yes, and imagine him getting undressed and letting his tummy go... sorry must stop, I need to vomit.'
Another reply read: 'How desperate must our country be to have its young and beautiful women leaving like that?'
The dating market appears to be thriving, eased
in part by far easier visa rules than to Russia, and a number of other
former states in the fallen USSR
There has been a huge backlash after pictures from so-called Socials were posted online on various blogs
'So sad. They are prostitutes, aren't they, this is what it is really called.'
but when you've got a choice of local men abusing alcohol and beating
their wives, not wanting to look after children, not wanting to work...
these girls will be better off with their elderly foreigners'.
Galyna, 23, who has attended several such sessions in Kiev, said: 'Personally, I went and looked.
The format is quite demeaning - well-off men from the West and poor Ukrainian and Russian girls. Loads more women than men.
'We were expected to parade for them, as well as talk to them.'
some sessions, the women pose in bikinis, at others they walk balancing
a weight on their heads seemingly to show off their figures.
I am looking for a foreign partner because I want stability in my life.
Here, domestic violence is bad, our men drink themselves stupid, and
the divorce rate is bad.
Many of the women who take part in the 'romance
tours' cite the bad conditions and quality of life for women in their
'I think I'm worth more than
that. If it means an older partner from abroad, who really wants to
share his life, then I'm ready for this even though it breaks my heart
to leave my homeland.
'I can see other girls who are after money from this by hooking a rich foreigner.
'As one told me: 'There's no fool like an old fool. I'll grab what I can from him'.'
marriage agency owner Tatiana Tasueva from Moscow said: 'If the girl is
young and pretty why shouldn't she sell herself and make a profit? If
she is beautiful why should she be poor?'
Russian agency has called for curbs on such tours while a spokeswoman
for Ukrainian women's rights group La Strada said today: 'Such 'dating
parties' are are a form of discrimination against women and such things
often lead to the prospering problems we are trying to fight, namely
domestic violence and the trafficking of women.
a woman has only limited chances of a professional career, and is paid
30 per cent less then men, as is the case with us, she is superficially
attracted by offers to try and make a career out of family life.'
stressed: 'We can't call such 'parties' a good thing. They often end
with problems for women, who go to an unknown country, not speaking the
language, and knowing nothing about her rights.
The ratio of women to men can be ten to one, or 'about as close to paradise as you get,' according to one male customer
'Taking part in such 'Socials' is not necessarily a rational decision for a woman.
they have lacked love and happiness in their lives, and are happy to
get any kind of male attention. Marriage agencies often exploit this
knowledge and prosper, creating a good platform for women trafficking.'
expert at the group, Ekaterina Cherepakha, director of social
programmes, said: 'The desire of some women to marry a foreigner and go
to live in another country is very understandable.
find their way to foreign bridegrooms online, others turn to marriage
agencies. Is it good or bad for Ukrainian women? In certain
circumstances it can be good.
the point is that such agencies and websites may serve a different
purpose as a cover for trade or trafficking in women or their
'Sometimes when a woman wants to go and live abroad she has very little idea about the lifestyle in the country she goes to.
Ukrainian women's rights group La Strada said
though some do find love the trade can often lead to problems, and women
don't know their rights
'Nor about her rights, or
getting residence permits, or what happens in a divorce or how to keep
her children after a marriage break-up.
'Potential brides do not even think about possible difficulties and even dangers they can face.
recruiters often use all this. When some agencies and recruiters
promise she will meet and marry a wealthy man, no-one checks his marital
status, mental health, crime record and all the other things.
'It can all end in violence.
when a woman seeks help from such agencies she must seriously consider
all the possible consequences and especially the risks.'
this, the agencies named here claim to be thoroughly respectable and to
have had a high rate of success in their clients forging long lasting
relationships and marriage with women in Ukraine, Russia and other