By Rea Apostolides and Kimon Tsakiris
Producer and director, The Bridegrooms
Many parts of rural Greece are faced with a serious problem. The lure of city life is generating a disproportionate number of bachelors looking for love.
The men of Sugar Town are offered the chance to change their lives
For young men in Zacharo (or Sugar Town), western Greece, life is somewhat bittersweet.
Women are fleeing the area in search of work or marriage in the big cities, leaving the men behind - and lonely.
The majority of these women do not even want to think about living the rest of their lives in this small agricultural place where nothing changes.
But the men do not have the same luxury of choice. Tradition dictates they inherit the land and must remain in the villages.
Fully aware of this situation is the astute mayor of Sugar Town, Pantazis Chronopoulos.
As part of his re-election campaign, he promised to find the men wives.
The mayor knows that love and politics are not mutally exclusive
"I don't know how he came up with the idea," says Kadafi, the local coffee shop owner, "but he promised that if we voted for him, he would organise a trip abroad to find us a wife."
"Dozens of mayors facing the same problem keep calling, asking how to organise such a trip," explains the mayor.
"Hundreds of men gather here to give me their passports because young Greek women are prejudiced against village life."
Faced with such pressure, and concerned about the upcoming election, Mayor Chronopoulos finally contacted the mayor of the Russian town of Klin, who gathered 300 women all looking for foreign husbands.
From the heart
Twenty-seven-year-old Kostas - a shepherd who lives by the sea with his father - was among the men travelling to Klin.
Although academic, Kostas decided to work with his father on the land
"I took the decision to participate in the trip," says Kostas, "because I have everything I need in life... a house, a car, a tractor, fields, animals. But I need a partner. I want to create a family."
Efthimis is a 40-year-old electrician, who says that he will do everything he can to win his future Russian bride.
"I will show her real love and pure feelings," he says, "and if that doesn't work, my last resort would be to kidnap her!"
On August 26, 2005, Kostas, Efthimis and Kadafi travelled to Moscow, together with the mayor and seven other men.
Most of them had never been abroad.
Although they were tired, their first meeting with the Russian women took place the same night in their hotel.
Women of all ages arrive. Most of them are divorced and dream of living a better life, in a country like Greece with a Mediterranean climate.
There are two "candidates" for each man.
Kostas dances with Galya, a 22-year-old housewife who loves baking. He is immediately attracted to her, and does not hesitate to declare his love.
"To tell you the truth," says Kostas the next morning, "I didn't expect it. I didn't expect something to happen. I think she likes me."
But while Kostas is lovestruck, the others are not yet so sure what the women made of them at the party.
Kadafi is worried that he cannot communicate with the woman he likes, but finally, he finds the courage to sit with Nadya, a 40-year-old bank employee.
He invites her to Sugar Town, and she agrees to go.
"Although it was difficult for us to communicate," she says, "Kadafi behaved like a knight!"
Kostas and Galya cannot wait to be together again in Greece
On the last day in Russia, the men and women attend a farewell party on a private riverboat along the Volga.
There is plenty of vodka to drink and while they dance, the organisers sit down to talk logistics.
The deputy mayor of Klin and Mayor Chronopoulos must work out how to get a large group of Russian women from Klin to Sugar Town.
After all, they hope to win elections for many years to come!
Kadafi and Nadya enjoy their last day together on the riverboat and Nadya promises to come to Greece in two months.
Kadafi hopes to get married before the end of the year.
Efthimis is content at this stage to swap telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. He wants to return to Greece and see what happens.
Galya and Kostas have more concrete plans. Galya has already started Greek lessons.
"When I come to Sugar Town," she tells him, "I will never return to Russia."
The Bridegrooms was broadcast in the UK on Tuesday, 4 October, 2005, at 2200 BST on BBC Two.