News: Matchmakers tout Russian women to U.S.

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Subject: News: Matchmakers tout Russian women to U.S.
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Mon Mar 22 1999 - 16:32:45 EST

Matchmakers tout Russian women to U.S.
Eastern European mail-order bride business now outpaces Asia
By Katya Cengel
The San Francisco Examiner, March 22, 1999

RIGA, Latvia - "I am a successful American, well educated, 40, travel to
Eastern Europe frequently. I prefer meeting an attractive, kind, Eastern
European woman to 31 for relationship," reads one personal statement in
Western Introductions, a magazine that matches Western men with Eastern
European women.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been a definite shift in the
mail-order-bride business. "Eastern European women are now more popular
among American men than are Asian women," said Lawrence Holmes, a
U.S.-based immigration attorney who has been obtaining American fiancee
visas for foreign women for seven years.

To meet the demand, matchmaking agencies have opened in Riga and other
cities that a decade ago were cut off from the West.

Irina Slepikovska, a divorced mother of two, founded De SIP Introductions
in 1994 because she wanted to help women find a partner for life. This is
no dating service - the goal is clear from the wedding bell on
Slepikovska's business card.

"Russian women are not the same as Asian women," she stressed. "If they
want a Thai wife, they want someone who is submissive, but if they want a
Russian wife, they want someone with an education and culture."

Certificates, wedding pictures and a ringing telephone are signs that her
business is doing well - there have been 25 marriages, no divorces and 10
engagements. All of the women have followed their future husbands to the
West, most often America.

$8.60 for her, $200 for him

Any woman over 18 is welcome to sign up. All she must do is fill out a
questionnaire, submit a full-body picture and head shot and pay a minimum
of 5 lats ($8.60). In return, she will appear in a catalog in which
visiting foreign men can search for an ideal partner. Of course, the fee
for the men - $100 to $200 - is higher.

Slepikovska's roster is filled with pictures of women of all ages; the
oldest is 58. Some are dressed in bikinis and posed in provocative stances,
while others wear long dresses and simple outfits.

Marina, a neatly dressed 41-year-old accountant with one child, came to the
agency in 1994 because she was unable to find a partner. "For one man,
there are six women here," she said.

Slepikovska's assistant, Svetlana Alexandrova, interrupts to add that there
is a strong link between marital relations and the economy and
demographics. In addition to the surplus of women, the high unemployment
and uncertain stability of the country have contributed to a decline in
marriages, she argued.

"Men don't propose because they can't support a family," Alexandrova said,
so women turn to men in more stable economic situations - men who live

Tatyana, a slim, curly-haired 29-year-old, came to the agency because she
wants to start a family and thinks the economic situation in Latvia is too
unstable. A divorced barmaid, she has had many inquiries, but has yet to
find the right man.

"It is not just business and a desire to move from here," she said. "I hope
to meet the true love of my life."

200 visas a year.

Holmes maintains that the majority of women for whom he obtains fiancee
visas want to marry a foreigner because they do not like men from their own

"The reasons they give are that the men of their country are extremely lazy
alcoholics who beat their women," he said. Holmes estimates that he obtains
about 200 visas per year for women from the former Soviet Union and that
their divorce rate is under 4 percent.

Eastern European women, he says, tend to have more of the "old-fashioned
values" that these men are looking for.

"Russian women are cultured," Slepikovska said. "They have a good education
from the Soviet system; they are good looking, hard working, shy and

The women who come to the agency are "unspoiled" and appreciative, and most
have typically "feminine" desires to get married and start a family,
Alexandrova noted. "For Western women, a career is more important than a

Men, especially those over 50, are suffering because of this. For
Alexandrova, it is simple: Western men want to get married and Western
women do not, so the men come here.

"Usually the first thing they ask for women to be is feminine," she said.
"Sometimes they specify that they have long hair." Cooking and sewing

Ask and you shall receive. On the sheet that lists women's hobbies, the
most common are cooking and sewing. Whether the women know what the men are
looking for or whether this is really what they want is any one's guess.

Everything in the business is carefully organized and posed, from the
framed wedding pictures to the catalogs on the table. But some things still
are lost in translation. "I am a happy maker," insists Slepikovska, even
though Alexandrova informs her that matchmaker is the proper term.

Melanie Orhant

Human Trafficking Program
Global Survival Network

P.O. Box 73214
Washington, DC 20009
T: 387-0028
F: 387-2590

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