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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 20:36 GMT 21:36 UK
'Romance tourists' head east
Taking measurements
Prospective brides must state their interests and vital statistics

From Phoenix, Arizona to Crimea, Ukraine - 25 men arrived in Simferopol this weekend on a package tour with a twist. On a mission for love - they have just two weeks to find themselves a wife.


The girls here, their values and ethics are like American girls back in the 1950s, they're willing to put their family first, to put their man first instead of themselves

Scott Dethloff
International cyber romance is blossoming and nowhere more than in Russia and Ukraine. But it is a huge leap from e-romance to reality, and these unusual tourists have come to Ukraine to see what is on offer for themselves.

At 35, tall and good-looking, Scott Dethloff does not look like a man who needs an agency to find a girl. But he calls himself a frustrated dater, fed-up with emancipation. He has come to the Crimea looking for a very different kind of wife.

"The girls here, their values and ethics are like American girls back in the 1950s," he tells me. "They're not selfish. They are willing to put their family first, to put their man first instead of themselves. That's different, and refreshing."

It is a sentiment that is echoed throughout the group, uniting an otherwise very mixed bunch.

Living proof

Mostly Americans, the men range in age from 34 to late 50s. Their characters too are varied.

Ron Redburn
Ron Redburn found his Russian wife through his own website

Quiet Kevin, 34, is a practised pen-pal who always dreamed he would marry a foreign girl.

Then there is Tom. One of the older gentlemen on the trip, complete with gold chain and white dinner jacket, he is what they call a repeat offender, back for his third time.

He is looking for an older woman who is serious about marriage, but admits that he is easily distracted by attractive young ladies who sweep him off his feet for a whirlwind week, but have no intention of settling down.

With his own Russian wife and two children in tow, Ron Redburn is living proof that success is within reach.

"I chose 10 girls off my own website when we first started, as a sort of experiment," the tour leader and founding member of A Foreign Affair marriage agency explains.

"Elina was number one on my list! It just shows how, if you extend a little effort in the right direction, you might just make a dream come true."

'Ideal image'

Dream-fulfilment is what this business is built on. The so-called romance tourists come to the Crimea looking for love. There are of course no guarantees but the setting is idyllic. Sun, sea, sand and most importantly, plenty of women.

Marina, from the Foreign Affair website
Marina says she has missed the marriage boat in Ukraine

Women like Marina. An attractive blonde, she signed up with her local dating agency two months ago. Girls wed young in Ukraine, and at just 25 she already feels like she has missed the marriage boat.

Her ambition is to find a man who can offer their children the kind of childhood she never had. It is a goal that is shared by many women on the agency's books.

"I have this ideal image of a beautiful home, of wonderful children and a marvellous husband," Marina confides wistfully. "Isn't that what every woman wants? At least there's no harm in dreaming."

Marina's photo has not been on the agency site for long, but she has already attracted dozens of letters from admirers who pay to buy the girls' addresses or phone numbers. Still looking for Mr Right, she has now been invited to a Social - a key part of the Romance Tour.

Illusions shattered

The Socials are what the men really come for. Sprucing himself up in his hotel room, Scott has been waiting for this event all year. He has chosen his top 10 women off the web, and he is hoping to be impressed.

Heading downstairs armed with baby photos and pictures of life back home, he's taking his wife-hunt very seriously.


I have this ideal image of a beautiful home, of wonderful children and a marvellous husband, isn't that what every woman wants?

Marina
Any romantic illusions the girls had about the event are very quickly shattered. So many women, so little time - at a ratio of five to one, the party is any man's idea of heaven. Unable to get a look-in, Marina will have to go on dreaming.

But for many of the grooms-in-waiting, stepping out on the dance floor with their new lady friends, the first crucial moves have been made.

Scott moves faster than most. The tour clock is ticking, and the very next night he meets number one choice Lena for a drink. Watching the sun set from a café on the sea-front, the two can barely communicate.

As the sun sinks lower, and their hands entwine, they manage at last to find a common language. But when it is time to say goodnight, Scott's practical streak kicks back in.

He is certainly attracted to Lena, but is she "the one"? This is day two, and the search has only just begun. He leaves the next day free for another, just in case.

See also:

14 Feb 01 | Business
09 Jan 01 | Business
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