How to find a Russian bride (named Boris)

On the hunt for a wife who’s exotic, beautiful and obedient? Maybe it’s time to consider the wonders of Russian Mail Order Brides. Just don’t get scammed.

Read with me: “Let us help you to have an impression of what you will find in a Russian wife. Her eyes can speak of the trials and hardship of a struggling country, but they can laugh with the indomitable spirit of mother Russia,” states the Chance For Love mail-order-bride Web site. Read on: “Imagine if they laughed with you and gave you all they had! We really hope you will be intrigued enough to take the first step to a happier and more fulfilling life, future and destiny.”I do, I do imagine this. I do imagine eyes of an ambiguous Russian woman with whom I have yet to make contact, not only laughing with me but, most importantly, giving all she has! I’m hooked, and apparently many others are, as well.

I do, indeed.

This Russki marital invasion went into full swing in 1991. The collapse of the former Soviet Union (perestroika, if you will), pushed the country into such extreme poverty, it made our Great Depression look like an E! documentary on the partying Hilton sisters. Each year, a half-million Russian women quest to leave their native land, thanks to the enticement of the fruits offered by the land of Snoop Doggy Dogg. Sacramento alone now boasts an estimated 75,000 Ukrainians and Russians. And though most didn’t immigrate to find an American to marry, they have come to the capital city to carve their niche within a community that harvests several immigrant-owned companies, its very own Russian Yellow Pages, a pair of radio stations, several small newspapers and private schools.

This elusive American capitalist dream is sought by whatever means necessary. One solution is to become a Russian Mail Order Bride (or at least that option can be a ticket straight to the wallet of American men). When international mail-order human marriage is involved, it can be a petri-dish-like breeding ground for scams. It’s an unregulated industry with no one policing it, and there’s also no screening process for applicants. Mental illnesses and criminal records could go unchecked.

Anyone with a computer, some Russian addresses and photos of attractive Eastern European women (with or without leering sexual glares) can set up shop. When it comes to Russian Mail Order Brides, it’s definitely a buyer-beware (of love?) situation.

That’s why I’m going to infiltrate this questionable world in order to get at the truth. Who knows, I just might find love, true Russian love, along the way—or even discover a legit operation. For, I know I have a soul mate out there, somewhere in a color catalog, hopefully to be shipped to my door by FedEx overnight. Yes, I’m going to try to get my very own mail-order bride. Onward!

Contacting a Russian Mail Order Bride agency

I frantically fumble for the phone and call a random agency, from a Web search, named Angels from Russia (located in the Russian Mail Order Bride capital of Medicine Hat, Canada). Angels from Russia is one of hundreds of firms that can be found online and that aims to match American men with mail-order brides in 50 countries.

So, because this is my first foray into this brave new world, I’m going to dive right in and directly test the waters in order to catch them at their little game, if there so happens to be one. (I will not be taken in!)

After several rings, a tired-sounding woman with a Russian accent answers.

“I’d like to wed a Russian bride now!” I yell into the phone. “Can I get one delivered next week?”

“Uh, it’s a matter of the agreement with your bride if she wants to come here and live in North America.”

“Can I get more than one?” I whine.

“Yes, you can get many. The more you get, the more you order addresses.”

“But do I have to choose only one bride?” I clarify. “Can I marry many Russian brides?”

“I do not think that is possible,” the woman states flatly, popping my bubble.

“Then choose a bride for me!” I demand. “Now! Choose one now!”

“I don’t know your taste.”

“Red hair!” I blurt.


“Can you get me one with red hair? I WANT A BRIDE WITH RED HAIR!”

“Red hair? We have many girls—aaah, I think—with red hair.” She checks. “Not really red, but reddish.”

“Reddish hair … OK, that works,” I whimper. “But if she doesn’t like me, do I get a refund? Or, if she doesn’t like doing housework, do I get my money back?”

“It’s a matter of the girl’s likes and dislikes.”

“But there’s no money back if she doesn’t like doing my housework?”


Bride seekers

Who are the other men who actively seek mail-order brides and keep this huge industry afloat? Perhaps they walk among us or belong to our health clubs! I certainly can’t be alone in my amorous quest.

The Web site Amour of Ukraine posts likenesses of several peppy American male candidates. I dig further. Most look like they’re harboring a terrible secret. All are seeking drastically younger brides. That right there is a carrot waved in front of the nose of the scam artesian. (As of press time, the Amour of Ukraine Web site was no longer available.)

Hypothetically, what would a beautiful, educated, 21-year-old Russian woman really want with, say, 58-year-old Brian of Citrus Heights who works as an assistant manager of a Radio Shack at Sunrise Mall?

After a search of sites, I come upon a man named David who, God bless him, has his very own Russian Mail Order Bride, and she’s 23 years his junior. David also runs a mail-order-bride agency, so perhaps he can give me some insights on picking the right wife. How he met his own spouse is the stuff of fairy tales. “I saw an ad in a magazine and purchased some addresses and wrote ’em, and she was one of ’em,” he explains matter-of-factly in a thick Southern accent. At one time, David corresponded with 20 to 30 different women—a regular mail-order-bride gigolo.

“I was tired of American women,” he reasons. I let out a knowing laugh to encourage him to continue with his astute insights, wishing he could see how vigorously I’m nodding my head. “Russian women are pleasers and not competitors. And there’s no women’s lib, so it worked out pretty good.” David’s voice gets low and raspy. “Russian women tend not to be hung up on physical appearances.” He assures me that it’s not unusual to see a 16-year-old Russian “woman” married to a 45-year-old man. (Hey—just like in Hollywood!)

In Russian urban legends, it’s easy to get out of the country and find a millionaire husband through mail-order-bride means. But in reality, it sometimes comes at a horrific price. In recent years, two Filipino mail-order brides were murdered by their American “dream” husbands. (I don’t have to point out that this isn’t good.) Hitting closer to home, in Sacramento, news reports indicate two men were charged a few years back with spousal abuse of their newly acquired Russian Mail Order Brides. In both local cases, they claimed they were victims of a marriage fraud spawned by a mail-order-bride scam.

“To be honest with you,” David confesses, “some fellas are not in it for the right reasons. They’re looking for a quick score. I’ve had one guy tell me, flat out, that’s what he’s looking for.”

It gets worse: “There’s been a couple of agencies that have gotten in trouble for doing such things like going over to Russia and claiming to be a Western modeling agency.” These unscrupulous individuals collect photos and profiles of Russian women and then sell the addresses to anxious wife-seekers in the United States. “There’s been horror stories,” David states dryly, “of Russian woman having total strangers show up on their Moscow doorstep ready for marriage!”

According to—sort of a support group for men who’ve been burned—there’re more mail-order-bride scams than funny hats at a pope convention. Web sites of non-existing Russian agencies will use photos of international lingerie models (ooh la la!) to lure in men. Once the correspondence begins, within a few e-mails, the faux mail-order bride immediately falls in love with the guy. Then, tragedy: He is informed that his potential future mail-order bride’s mother was just “hit by a car.” The mail-order bride asks the guy to wire money for the operation, after which he never hears from her again. Damn! Or a mail-order bride asks for money to be wired for tickets and a visa. The agency pressures the poor guy with a deadline before “her visa expires.” Once he wires the money, she stops corresponding. The agency informs him she’s been in a horrific accident. The agency asks him to wire more money so it can set up a trip for him to visit her. He sends more money, and so on.

To top it off, the guy most likely has been corresponding the whole time with a fat Russian man with a hairy back, named Boris. Damn! Other times, gold-digging Russian women will marry some poor schlub just so they can go on a major two-week shopping spree (yee haw!) before running for the hills, leaving newlywed hubby to pay the bills. Or, perhaps after two years of marital bliss (and not to mention, a green card), a swift, sudden divorce is followed by the Russian woman bringing over her boyfriend or former husband from back home. Damn you mail-order scammers, damn you!

But to give the Russian brides some street cred, many disgruntled men blame their failed attempts at finding Russian love on scams, when, in actuality, it was the men’s mistaken belief that they simply could buy love with their investments in travel and phone bills. Damn you mail-order-bride seekers, damn you! [page]

Choosing your Russian bride

A few days after paying $20, I receive in the mail Angels from Russia’s beautiful full-color mail-order-bride catalog. (I will not be taken in!) I’m hypnotized. Within its pages are available Russian women of various ages, sizes and shapes. It’s just like a J.Crew catalog, but instead of woolly sweaters, it’s peddling Russian Mail Order Brides. The Angels from Russia roster runs the gamut from old and divorced with several children to really young and eager to escape the mother country (for the land of Snoop Doggy Dogg). Some go all out and have photos that are slightly pornographic. One trooper shows a crotch shot revealing her mail-order-bride panties! (Could this be the future Mrs. Russian Harmon Leon?!) Some specify that they want a “white man.” A few are pictured with a small child. It’s a package deal—you get both! (Two for one!)

The catalog’s description entices me: “special, feminine, romantic, traditional, intelligent.” It poses the question, “Could you continue this list of compliments applying to Russian ladies? I’m sure you could. You’ve heard them many and many times, but probably you are still questioning yourself: ‘What is so special about them?’ And you’ll never find the answer until you know one of them in person!”

Hitting the jackpot, for $29 I receive a Russian Mail Order Bride video, which I aptly title Russian Mail Order Brides Gone Wild! Opening a box of Ritz crackers, I recline on the couch and take in the full cavalcade of Russian brides. It makes me feel bad about humanity. It evokes the same reaction I’d have if I accidentally walked in on a cockfight in my high-school principal’s garage. The video opens with an original song, a real romantic one, composed and sung with the vigor of a budget wedding singer: “Beautiful girl / Wherever you are / I knew when I saw you …”

Then there’s an awkward cut to a cheap hotel room that could double for a porn set. Each woman, in turn, holds up a number and speaks about herself in broken English. Some are terrified. Many have bad teeth. For hobbies, all mention cooking. A few include washing. The majority say they want an “honest, caring, loving man.” If they forget, they’re prompted by an effeminate-sounding man conveniently off camera.

“OK, turn around,” requests the effeminate voice. “Thank you!”

This is wrong on many levels. I imagine guys like David watching this video, and making notes about their future child brides, with their pants around their ankles.

The candidates

Now, to actually make contact, I’m required to shovel out more cash. With each potential bride I pick, there’s an additional cost of $14 per address.

This is a lot cheaper than spending roughly $4,000 to take a two-week “marriage tour” to the former Soviet Union, organized by several mail-order-bride agencies, filled with “mega-mixers” where Russian women outnumber the men by as much as five to one.

The Angels from Russia mail-order-bride order form, featuring happy couples riding horses, shoveling snow and walking hand in hand while engaged in lighthearted conversation, states, “Some very attractive ladies may not be quite so photogenic. Look for ladies who may be hidden gems. … Good luck to you in finding the lady you are looking for. We hope you will find someone who will bring you the happiness you seek.”

Yes, I, too, hope to find not only someone who will bring me happiness but also someone who won’t drain my bank account. According to a Web site promoting the Russian bride Anti-Scam Guide (a book that sells for $24.95—is this yet another scam?!) it is estimated that 40 percent of men who throw their hats into the Russian Mail Order Bride arena will come in contact with a scammer at some point in the game who’ll try to get inside his or her victim’s heart and mind to gain his trust (not to mention money). A majority of the scams originate from Belarus, Ukraine and Republic Mari El. It can be heartbreaking, to say the least, when some poor guy who simply wanted to find his future wife through a Web page discovers that, in actuality, he’s been corresponding with a male scam artist. It’s enough to put a guy off of mail-order brides in general, especially when he’s already developed strong feelings for the woman. (Again, it may be Boris with the hairy back!) It’s easy to see how naive men are taken in; they oh-so-desperately want their middle-aged dream of a 21-year-old bride to be a reality.

So, with caution, I pick out six Slavic sweeties (total price: $84). One of my Russian brides/hidden gems is depicted talking on the phone:

Olga Ojinova
Age: 48
Height: 5’3”
Weight: 167 lbs
Job: chief specialator [?]
Enjoys home life, reading and amateur theater. Seeks slim, financially secure white man.

Another holds flowers and wears an interesting hat:

Nataly Balytchenko
Age: 46
Height: 5’2”
Weight: 148 lbs
Job: civil engineer
Enjoys cooking, reading and making toys. Seeks white man without any bad habits.

I utilize the agency’s standard form letter and also include a “good photo.” The photo I include is of Beneath the Planet of the Apes star James Franciscus (I hear the Planet of the Apes series is very popular in Russia). My task, in order to bait the scammers, is to come across as a loud, ugly American who happens to be an eccentric millionaire by the name of Sizemore Monroe. Some men rely on their money to impress a mail-order-bride hottie, easily falling prey to greedy scammers. I will do as such to bait my scam trap. I start by sending a little original poetry:

A rose smells nice
And is nice to look at.
A woman is like a rose
She smells nice
And is nice to look at!

In the weeks that follow, e-mails and letters pour in. First, from a woman named Albinka: “The weather is cold, -6 at night and +6 during the day. It will be winter soon. The summer is very short, but it is not always warm. I have a son, he is 25 years old. He lives apart from me. I am divorced now.”

I’m afraid not, Albinka. Your 12-degree temperature differential has completely turned me off! I want a mail-order bride, not a weatherman!

Then Svetlana: “I was greatly surprised when I had read your poetry. It’s lovely and I like it. Now I’ve come back from the ‘shaping.’ It’s 10 p.m. so I have to finish my letter.”

Sorry, Svetlana. I was with you up until the part where you mentioned the “shaping.” See ya!

And then Olga: “Hello my new American friend Sizemore, I am flattered by your attention. I like to watch fantastic and historical films, also documentical ones about another countries.”

If there’s one thing I hate in this world, it’s fantastic and historical films. Bye-bye, Olga!

Something just doesn’t click with any of these mail-order-bride amorous postal prospects. Somehow, this whole interaction leaves me feeling empty inside. I don’t know why. I’m almost ready to pack it in. But then I come to “her” page in the catalog.

Ludmila Sidorenkova!

Yes, a 52-year-old nurse from Severodvinsk who is “calm and decent. Emotional. Like sports and dancing. Seeks someone white. Don’t like bootlicking and adventurers.”

I don’t know what made me turn to Ludmila’s page in the mail-order-bride catalog, but there she was—Ludmila, my Ludmila. Yes, Ludmila Sidorenkova, a true hidden gem! Perhaps it was her extraordinary ability to be both calm and emotional all at once.

The correspondence

With poetry in my heart, I pen a letter that keeps my adventurer past and bootlicking antics a secret! I do it in order to test whether her intentions are true or whether she’s merely another Russian Mail Order Bride scam artist.

There are a few precautionary measures I could take to sniff out if this is a scam. I could fork out $120 to an Internet service that would do a background check on my calm and decent Ludmila. (But then again, could it be another scam?)

UaDetective Agency ( has a few recommendations to spot potential scammers: Check Web sites with blacklists of scammers. Also check to see if the sites featuring top Russian models have identical photos (one cunning scammer actually used a photo from a box of hair dye). Ask the woman to send a photo of herself with relatives. One particular clever ruse is to ask for her address so you can have flowers delivered. Then have the deliveryman take a photo of the person who receives the bouquet. Or, better yet, pose as another person and start a correspondence from a different e-mail box and see if she professes undying love to that man after the first e-mail, too. It’s been said a real Russian woman would rather starve than ask for money. Ultimately, the best way to avoid scams is simply not to send money to someone you’ve never met before in your life. Yes, the mail-order-bride industry isn’t all innocent schoolgirl puppy love.

But I throw caution to the cold Russian wind and begin by enticing my future wife with the fruits of American life.

Dear Ludmila,
Greetings from the United States. I look like Tom Cruise and drive a big American Cadillac. My hobbies are basketball (I don’t play as well as Michael Jordan), eating hamburgers and drinking Coca-Cola. I like going to the theater and movies. The films of Arnold Schwarzenegger are my favorite. Have you seen Terminator 2? I enjoy cooking meals made with fresh vegetables, bought conveniently at any local supermarket. Right now, I’m wearing a big top hat and a tuxedo. Do you like the music of Snoop Doggy Dogg?
Your new American friend,

Good morning Sizemore!
This is Ludmila. I shall write you letter and we shall get to know each other closely. In 1985 I came to Severodvinsk. The climate here is very severe. Winters are cold and long and summer are short. Snow falls down at the end of October and lies till May. It is not very cold now but is raining heavily, and the sun is shining seldom. I am calm and emotional by nature. I hate lie and betrayal. I love strong man.
Ludmila Sidorenkova

Ha! I know Ludmila’s a total scam artist. She’s just purposely making her life sound pathetic in order to bait me to send her money. Sure, I can see it coming. In the next letter, she’s going to say she’s madly in love with me, and I should wire her money for a visa, airline ticket and English lessons for her new life in America. What kind of fool does she (or he) think I am? Ha! I won’t fall for it, I tell ya. I just won’t fall for it! When I don’t write back, she writes again, trying to pull yet another attempt to get my money.

Good morning Sizemore!
This is Ludmila, from Severodvinsk. In my childhood I studied at the musical school. I played the piano. I had not finished that school. But still I love music. I like “The Beatles.” As for Russian music, I like Igor Talkov. I went in for volleyball till 35 years old. Thanks sport I have such a slender figure. I think that I shall never get thicker. I like to prepare the Ukrainian borscht, vareniki, pelmeni, and I like to bake pies and cakes. I like to conserve. Now I am conserving the vegetables.
Please, write about your children. And what about your dog and other family? I am waiting for your letter.

OK, this Russian Mail Order Bride scam artist wants to play hardball. All I can say is she better wear a helmet! What a ruse. No one could possibly be this depressing! I’m positive she’s actually a Boris, who, once I commit to marriage, will have me shave his back on a daily basis. What is she going to pull next, the old mother-being-hit-by-a-bus stunt?! I will not fall for her sob story to empty my bank account. In fact, I’ll test her faithfulness.

Good morning, Ludmila!
This is Sizemore from America—the most powerful country in the world! Thank you for your letter. Your English is very good. Do many men write you letters from America? If so, who? How many!!! It’s interesting that you cook pelmeni. That is one of my favorite dishes. Who else is writing you!!! I have eight children: seven boys and one girl. We are a big family. The boys’ names are Sizemore Junior, Sizemore III, Scooter, Spud, Little Jimmy, and the twins—Newman and Shuman. The girl’s name is Sizemoretta. They range in ages from 1 to 14. Do you like many children? My dog, Snoop, is fine. There’s another man writing you. I just know it!!!
I, too, like the Beatles. Do you like the music of Tupac and 50 Cent?
Your future husband,

Good morning Sizemore!
Thank you for your letter that I was waiting for. Thank you that you are concerned in me. It was the 5th of October that fell the snow, but on the next day it melted. The weather is bad, it rains heavily. It becomes dark too early. Soon the polar nights will come, that is to say it will be dark at 3 o’clock p.m. I think it is hardly to believe in your California!
I have no car, even a small one. But I am dreaming about driving a car. I have a one-roomed flat. I am not fond of poetry but I like to see films with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I have already seen Terminator and Terminator 2.
If you are looking as Tom Crooze, may be your have many adorers? I think that you are a kind and good man. I feel some sympathy for you.

OK, either (a) this “Ludmila” is a scam artist, or (b) I’m going straight to hell. Either way, this whole business is sad and pathetic. Especially my part. I need to break off my mail-order-bride relationship with Ludmila, gently but permanently, without hurting her Russian Mail Order Bride feelings:

Dear Ludmila,
Unfortunately, my work for the U.S. government is going to take me out of contact for several months. It’s a top-secret mission, which I can tell you more about when I return, hopefully safely. Are you familiar with the AK-47? It was developed in the Soviet Union in 1947 and has a standard 30-round magazine. It’s not as good as the Galil, developed by the Israelis in 1967 with a 50-round magazine. The horror!

There’s a Chernobyl meltdown of my heart, for I never hear from Ludmila again. Like many who partake in mail-order-bride correspondence, I let my paranoia get to my head, and I ruined what could have been a very meaningful relationship.

The days pass slowly now. I have fond memories of our shared interest in Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh, how we laughed. Oh, how we cried! At least I got out early before I got scammed. Anyway, I didn’t really like her power games and head trips. Our relationship was becoming too confining. A man needs his space! Maybe I’ll sponsor a Sally Struthers starving child instead.