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

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 Kiev to meet what are commonly referred to as Ukraine 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 Ukraine brides scam. Fascinated, I eavesdropped as she obliged.

The online dating scam is not new. A Google search for the phrase “Ukraine 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 about the Ukraine Brides scam 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 Ukraine 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.

39 thoughts on “Mail Order Brides – The Shame of Ukraine”

    • That list given is a scam list and many just mirrors of each other. Many of them has as many reviews as Amazon on Sitejabber, but are blocked at Trustpilot as “bad fit”. They are organized scam and doesn’t differ much from ordinary African/Asian scam schemes. The scam is in the pay per message. Nobody promotes other sites without profit.

  1. Went to Ukraine back when it was really mail order in the early 1990s and before the scammers moved in big time. You paid for the address and that was all. Then you were on your own. I found my fiancé and eventually went to stay with her and her parents for a visit. Been married over 25 years. But if you are not willing to learn a bit of the language and respect the customs and religion, it may not go so well for you.

  2. If you want to avoid a scam, tell her upon first writing: “Please don’t be offended by this but I want you to know that if lady asks me for money before we actually meet and are ‘together,’ I will walk away.” If she’s a scammer, she will not want to waste her time. If she’s serious in her intentions, she will stick around and continue getting to know you. Don’t waste your precious time and money chatting or writing to scammers. Don’t count all your eggs in one basket either or go for just any agency.

    My recommendation would be to simply live in Ukraine for 1 to 2 months, learn about the culture and carefully select ladies (to invite to meetings) that you understand are most likely serious prospects to meet. Longer stays will help you to not feel pressured to find someone in haste. And avoid pursuing only supermodel looking ladies and she should be a reasonable match for yourself. Are you fit? She can easily be fit then. Are you financially secure, reliable, communicative and mentally mature? You have more options. Are you looking within a reasonable age gap? Even better. Overseas dating is not a simple 1, 2, 3, get with me. You need to build a true relationship, trust, intimacy and a bond. Then, you can have a view together.

    Before beginning your search, have your life in order. You should get in shape if you’re not. Research style and invest in some presentable clothes. Just improve yourself as best as you can for maybe a year or more and then go on a trip. Increasing your level of attraction will improve your confidence and chances of finding your life-partner to build trust and friendship. Fools rush in and come away empty-handed or worse, get scammed. Some people expect perfection and end up with nothing in the end so don’t rule out the truly kind ladies who are often overlooked.

  3. I went to Ukraine and met a Ukrainian girl and she was nice and sweet and then I came to know that she was a scammer and was dating two other guys. I thought that all Ukrainian women are the same but then I met somebody special who was so pure and we are still going strong after 5 years of dating.

  4. You wrote this post based on your own observations and one side story. But there is another side to it too.
    I am Ukrainian who, a long time ago, was hoping to meet the love of my life through the Internet too, oh how naive I was. At that time I used agencies and free dating websites. The agency told me that all services for women were free but men had to pay and they never told me how much exactly men paid.
    However, a majority of men I met through the agency were liars and cheaters who came to Ukraine to get sex and leave. They were not interested in any serious relationship and were hiding behind \”looking for a bride\” thing.
    Time passed and I met an amazing (as I thought at that time) guy who wanted to marry me and have a family. He was such a gentleman and sweetheart.
    So we got married and then all the horror began. His \”sweetheartness\” turned into aggression and he started abusing me in all possible ways. When I wanted to escape, called the police and filed for divorce he got crazily mad and did everything he could to deport me.
    The lawyer, who was helping me during that time, said his daily cases were about helping so-called \”online brides\” to divorce their crazy American husbands. Those men thought they could come to Ukraine (Russia, Philippines, Thailand etc.), \”pay\” for a girl, use her in the way they wanted and then just get rid of her when they felt like it.
    Until this day I keep meeting young Ukrainian women who got into the relationship with American men through the help of an agency. And many of those girls have pretty horrific stories to tell of their own.
    The point is, there are scammers on both sides. Are there dishonest Ukrainian girls who want to get just money? Yes, and as a man, you have to watch out. But there are many other women who are eager to find true love and their soulmate.
    At the same time, there are plenty of American deceivers who come to Ukraine just to have fun and take advantage of the naivety of Ukrainian women. And poor women, they don\’t know yet what they are getting into.
    And another thing. I doubt those men who do pay thousands of dollars (which sounds bizarre, to be honest, that\’s a lot of money for Ukraine for a service) are not aware of everything that is happening around them. I think they know very well what they are going for and what they hope to get back for their money.
    But thank you for this post, I truly enjoyed reading it. It\’s always fascinating to know in what light foreigners see my home country.

    • Yes, I would agree that many of these men are narcissist’s like my ex-husband who at 64 old is looking for a thirty something mail order woman to charm and then she will be isolated and emotionally abused.

    • I’m sorry you were treated that way. I consider myself to be a true gentleman and I do not tolerate abuse or even aggression towards a woman regardless of who they are. As a gentleman I believe we are to elevate women, protect them, support them, inspire them and provide for them. There are men out there like myself but seem fewer and fewer these days. Where did the old school gentleman go? Well, I for one will never change that about me. From your picture you look beautiful and deserve to find a true gentleman who will treat you right. I just hate to hear about a man abusing a woman.

    • Hello Anya, old post I know! It was interesting to read your
      side of the story as a bride. It’s funny but earlier this year I spoke
      to one of the directors of the Ukrainian Consulate in Guatemala
      to find out about requirements for entry for ukrainian brides.
      This lady gave me a piece of advice as a married woman and told
      me that even with the 90 day fiance /spousal visa I would not be able
      to really get to know the woman I intended to marry. She said, “I’ve been
      married for 30 yrs with my husband, and there are still many things I don’t
      know about him. I’m still getting to know him” and she said that in a
      negative tone, meaning there were dark sides to this man that she didn’t
      know about.
      Very sad to hear you were abused and treated as less of a person.
      Anyway, something you say here really caught my attention as you say,
      “these poor naive ukrainian women”. To me most are not naive at all! Both
      big and small city girls I tried getting into a relationship with, I found out the
      hard way that they were ALL either scammers or liars!! From “good” and bad agencies alike.
      They were all running little games with me and as soon as I found out I cut them
      loose. Some wanted me to write everyday like the Cuban guy from the main story
      says, and feed the meter for the agency as much as she could. Some asked without
      actually asking directly (very skillfully) for roses, perfumes or english lessons and one
      even texted me once that she had to sell her iphone because she had to pay the rent.
      I later found out that she had been in a vacation in Dubai for about a month with his
      boyfriend and entourage. So pardon me but I see no “naive ukrainian girls” anywhere!
      Tell me where I can find them please! hahaha

  5. You people who are saying why don’t you men date in your own country. Never got ass raped in divorce court. You didn’t get sent to jail or prison. For next to nothing. You didn’t get married and have children. And one day she just doesn’t want to be married anymore. You didn’t go to your church and sit two rows back and look at the super high ranking Christian that slept with your wife. Or any one’s else. And you ask why we look somewhere else. We don’t want your version of American marital bliss. And the mental health issues that come with her.American women are trash. But you can’t see that unless you have been through this. You simply cannot understand it.So you ask stupid questions and give insane advice to us men whose lives were ruined by looking at home.

  6. I know that a large majority of the ladies are scammers. That given you still have that small majority that are searching for love in a new life a new country. So to that small percentage of ladies that are real and seeking their soulmate and love.
    I too have my quest, to find true love overseas. I hope to find like-minded woman who seeks the same quest that I seek.
    I have been to The Ukraine on two different locations in 2015 and 2016. On both trips I have met and seen scammers. But I have also met real women looking for real love.
    It’s a numbers game and you’re playing against the odds. The more you search the more you increase your odds of finding that one lady.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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 , 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.

    • Hello mary. Old post I know. But it’s very easy for you to say that without
      knowing. many of us men have already shot our shot with these so called
      dating websites that you mention and we are already tired. And we have
      also been burned trying to date and please american /local women. I never married
      one but I’m glad I didn’t as I read all these divorce rape stories all over the place!!
      This is why we are looking overseas for better opportunities.

      • The opportunities overseas are not better.
        Be active in clubs. Follow your passions, and you will meet the right partner in your own country. First and foremost, international brides want to improve their financial situation. No question about it. This is realistic. Love comes after money, or maybe no love at all when the money has been drained. My brother knows two farmers who married Ukrainian brides. Both women were farm girls happy to work on farms. Completely successful marriages, kids, etc. so my brother thought he could find something similar. The woman presented herself fraudulently, drained his bank accounts and sent the money to the Ukraine. Disappeared after talking him into a permanent green card.
        He lives in a state where annulments are virtually impossible, and when they do happen, the bride is still treated financially as if it were a legitimate marriage.
        And 2 years later he still trying to get the divorce finalized! She keeps upping the ante. Then changes lawyers. He will never be out of debt unless he goes through bankruptcy.
        Also, the support document you sign does not require the women to be self supporting ever. It used to be 10 years that you had to support them, now it’s indefinite if they don’t remarry or have 40 quarters of taxable income. She is living with a countryman in the US. He will not marry her. Her man coaches her on how to get more money.
        She has lied in front of the judge. Comes across as a victim. Fluent English that she seems to have forgotten. My brother will be paying for his need to be loved until he dies.
        I am sorry for the women who come to the US who are abused. Perhaps this international mail order type dating should be abolished. The agencies make money. The men lose a lot of money. And sometimes good hearted women suffer. At the hands of psychopaths .
        The women have fantasies about what life is going to be like in America.
        There are good men in their own cultures. But those men don’t have the kind of money generally that the women and their families want.

        • Well Lotte, I can certainly sympathize with your brother’s predicament. I went through it with an American bride who knew how to work the system. She even showed up here and checked into a women’s shelter as my abused wife, although she was married after me and was never ever abused. She got a free lawyer and while I was in the hospital with pneumonia, took my children away.
          After many tens of thousands of dollars spent and 2 warrants for her arrest, I was finally rid of her and have never looked back except in fear for the future.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!!!

  12. 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 $€££


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