The Mail Order Brides Scam is Alive and Well in Ukraine

Mail Order Brides – The Shame of Ukraine

As I often do when visiting a new country for the first time, I asked a number of people I met in Kiev what one thing best describes Ukrainians. Without exception, they all proclaimed, “We want to be free.”

My first foray into the city center reinforced what I’d been told. At Independence Square, a giant mural proclaimed “Freedom is our Religion!” The Square, which locals refer to as “Maidan,” was ground zero for the 2013/14 Ukrainian Revolution that ousted the corrupt Communist regime. Not only had the freedom fighters succeeded, but Maidan had been given a shiny new face. Of the destruction and fires that had raged through the square three years earlier, not a single sign remained.

Giant mural in Kiev's Independence Square Maidan proclaiming "Freedom is our Religion!" stands in contrast to the mail order brides scam that pervades Ukraine

Giant mural in Kiev’s Independence Square (Maidan) proclaiming “Freedom is our Religion!” stands in contrast to the mail order brides scam that pervades Ukraine

I was impressed. Ukrainians seemed passionately devoted to the pursuit of freedom. But my bubble burst when I sat down in a cute little French cafe just steps off the Maidan. Within moments, the twenty-something Ukrainian woman seated at the adjacent table began selling her soul. Her lunch companion, a Cuban-American man who had traveled to Ukraine to meet what are commonly referred to as mail order brides, spent the better part of the next hour interviewing the woman. Was she attracted to him? Could she see herself in a committed relationship with him? She tossed her long fire-engine red hair and answered flippantly, “No,” and, “No.” Carlos (not his real name), realizing this was not the soul mate he had hoped for, spent the balance of the “date” asking his companion to share what she knew about the mail order brides scam in Ukraine. Fascinated, I eavesdropped as she obliged.

The online dating scam is not new. A Google search for the phrase “Ukrainian brides for sale” returns nearly 300,000 websites. Agencies offer a wide variety of packages for prospective husbands, but there are some common denominators. Almost all sites allow users to sign up for free, create a profile, upload photos, and read the profiles of the women who are purportedly looking for a husband. But actual contact with any of the women requires a fee.

After the red-head departed, I introduced myself to Carlos and asked if he would be willing to share his experience with me. Over the next month, he divulged what he’d learned in a series of emails:

It is without a doubt a hustle. I had correspondence with that lady if I can call her that for months, and well, you heard the conversation. They will charge me 75 dollars to meet each of the three ladies. Yes I can hear you thinking why pay for this? But I’m already here and have nothing else to do so I may as well see it all the way through.

After this, if the dates don’t pan through I will never have anything to do with foreign dating. Once you meet the girl and sign off on the form, the agency loses all form of their revenue. But by then they have milked you dry. Even so people like me and two other gentlemen I met at the office, both from Florida by the way, did it a little bit smarter than others who go to the tours. While I pay a grand for airfare, five hundred on hotel, the letters and all the other smaller stuff, these guys fork out thousands for these tours. Way to expensive for me. Don’t know who fares better, or if anyone does.

The letters that Carlos referred to are known as the “pay per letter (PPL) dating scam.” Claiming that the women don’t speak English (most of them actually do), the agencies charge $10 for translators to handle each letter sent or received. Messages, texts, and video chats are also available on a pay-per-minute basis. A photo of the woman will cost a love-struck man $3. PPL sites also arrange for gifts such as flowers, candy, electronics, and even English lessons to be delivered to the women. The men have no idea that the women, who encourage these “gifts,” share in the profits from their sale.

Some of the men eventually opt to travel to Ukraine to meet the women with whom they’ve been corresponding. This was the fourth trip for Carlos.

When I first started this Search, I joined a site called blue sapphires. Yes you paid for the letters and it was a business, but that agency was not as cut throat as the agencies now. (They) have become much more money grubbing from the one I first started with. These girls want to write almost every day. I cut it to once a week. The red head said it was a fix, and she was part of it. I paid one hundred plus for an opera ticket for her, but “B” (another male client) told me the tickets in Kiev sold for about twenty US dollars. Another mark up. When I first started I came to Kiev and visited the dating office and they would set me up with girl after girl for free on my stay. Now they charge you seventy five dollars to contact every girl at the agency when you’re there.

You asked which was cheaper, my way or through a group tour. My way is definitely cheaper, though I still spent a lot. What I learned from “B” and “M”… is to not write the ladies until a week or so before your trip. That way they are familiar with you, but you haven’t already spent fifteen hundred in correspondence. Smart trick I did not think about. Still, I paid…for the plane tickets, the hotel, food, and extra stuff. These guys pay three grand right off the bat, plus whatever extra they need for the trip. I don’t like the idea of cattle call meetings, plus three grand up front is way too much for me…I hear most of them don’t succeed, but hey, neither did I. Bottom line, it is a scam of sorts. But there are women looking to get married. I think guys my age and older need to keep in mind that the younger girls won’t want to marry older guys, unless as the red head said you’re rich or look like Johnny Depp, but who would want such a woman. The red head did me a big favor and opened my eyes somewhat.

As bad as this all sounds, Kiev can’t hold a candle to what goes on in Odessa. Sure enough, within 24-hours of my arrival in Odessa, I was observing a mail order brides date at Tagliatelle Italian Restaurant. The waitress and I whispered and laughed about the situation. “Sometimes the same man will come into the restaurant four or five days in a row, each time with different woman,” she said. “I wait on him three times a day but he always act like he doesn’t know me. One time, a man came here to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner for seven days. He has a different woman each time, but still he act like he not know me.” She also said the men always come “with a friend, maybe a sister, who helps them talk to the women.” I explained that these are not friends. They are translators, who are required to be present throughout the meeting, even though most of the women speak perfectly good English. Of course, the men are charged a hefty fee for this “service.”

Most of the women have become pros at milking men who are driven as much by loneliness as lust. They accept the inevitable marriage proposal but insist they cannot leave Ukraine until some event happens. Her mother is in the hospital and she needs money to pay the bill. She cannot leave her parents, who are poor, unless their home is paid off. She needs money wired to pay for her visa and airfare. Some even pretend to fly to the U.S. or Europe, then call to say they have been denied entry.

The longer I stayed, the more evidence I saw of what must be one of Ukraine’s largest cottage industries. It seems ironic that Ukrainians, who were for decades bilked of their natural resources and freedom by a corrupt regime, have chosen to focus so heartily on a scam that bilks others of their hard-earned money. It was a black mark that made it difficult to appreciate the otherwise rich culture of the country.

Check prices for accommodations in Kiev at Booking.com, Hotels.com, or HotelsCombined.com. Read reviews about hotels and guest houses in Kiev, Ukraine at TripAdvisor.

Check prices for accommodations in Odessa at Booking.com, Hotels.com, or HotelsCombined.com. Read reviews about hotels and guest houses in Odessa, Ukraine at TripAdvisor.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to hotel booking sites. If you click on any of the links and make a booking, I may earn a small commission, which keeps this blog free to read.

16 Comments on “Mail Order Brides – The Shame of Ukraine

  1. Elementary at best. As though a typical woman here at home marrying a man does it for any other reason than her own security and that of her future children. Know this, a woman is with a man ONLY to fulfil her own wants and needs , NOT his. To her a man is merely a vehicle that carries her to her desired destination. If one vehicle fails she will simply disembark and board another, if she can ie if she has the looks and relative youth. This is why it’s so much easier for a woman to move from one man to the next. It’s so simply because it was never about loyalty or love for any one particular man but always about fulfilling her own Wants and Needs. Hence a western marriage contract is nothing more than an insurance policy for the woman in case he leaves.

  2. Last year I went to Ukraine with a tour. I met a wonderful woman and am now enjoying life with my new family, including our 2 kids who came with Oksana. While there are many potential pitfalls and scams involved with international dating, and some of the men are seeking only short-term pleasure, there are many women who are sincerely seeking a better life and many men with higher intentions. Based upon my experience, this article magnifies the unsavory aspects of the industry and ignores positive outcomes. Fir a more bakanced view, I highly recommend the 2014 film “Love Me”. There are two films from the same year with this title, both are related to the bride industry in Ukraine, and both are excellent. Nevertheless, the documentary film is highly relevant to this discussion.

    • Hi John: Thank you for sharing your experience. It was good to hear that some agencies are reputable.

  3. Wow, who knew. But I am curious, as I read your article , where is the logic of these desperate, lonely men. Paying for emails, all those extra fees, translators, the travel, etc ….it has ” scam ” written all over. Why not go on a dating website in your home country, like Plenty of Fish, or Match.com , or numerous others?

    • I hear you, Mary. I think the reasons are all over the board. Some are turned off by “American” willful, independent women and want a woman who will “dote” on them. Some have legal problems in the States ad think they can more easily find a foreign wife. Some do use the dating services in the U.S. as well as the foreign ones. It all smacks of so much desperation. Sad.

      • Hmmm…sounds like a little bitterness there, Seymoure. Sorry to hear that.

  4. I agree with all of the above responses. I often wonder about people that believe a relationship is real when in fact, they are being used. I think that’s the loneliness portion of the equation. I hope your article reaches at least some people that are thinking about doing this and opens their eyes and saves them anguish and money. Great job Barbara.

  5. This was a VERY interesting article, Barbara! I like your ‘chutzpah’ in approaching the man asking for his story! You really learned a lot from him…and so did we from your writing! I enjoy reading the hidden truths connected to places you visit…good or bad. It always saddens me when I hear people being taken advantage of…and the people who prey on others’ weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Good exposé, Barbara!!!

    • Thank you, Crystal. I love seeing behind the scenes in the places I travel, and then sharing those stories with my readers.

  6. How fascinating, but sad. Do you think the girls were doing this as an easy way to get money or had some been ‘forced’ into the situation? E.g. through desperation. I almost started to feel sorry for the men too, though I was almost screaming at the screen ‘where’s your common sense???’ And how can these men believe that a younger, beautiful woman from a ‘poor’ country is going to fall madly in love with them and marry them for all the right reasons? Do they not see it’s just a ‘cleaner’ version of prostitution?

    • Hi Anne: From my research, I believe the girls do this to make money. I never heard about anyone being forced into it. Though I have read about some who eventually quit because they realize what is going on and find it distasteful. I hear you about the men – but I guess loneliness can drive people to do a lot of things.

    • You’re so painfully naive
      Has it occurred to you dear lady that these men are aware of everything and are simply exchanging one thing for another.
      Granted some people are unsophisticated and naive but do you really think women in America are so much better. I suggest you pay a visit to some family courts and see the women who show their true color come divorce time. It’s all about $€££

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *