I have been married to my wonderful wife, Olga, since last
February 14 (2001), and would like to share our story with those of you who
are considering beginning or continuing a relationship with a Russian girl.
It is a long story, because I want the reader to try and
get a glimpse of what Olga and I have gone through to get to where we are
today. I know no way better to begin than at the beginning!
Like many of you reading this, I am divorced. My divorce
was long and difficult. I went through a lot of painful and difficult litigation,
and finally was able to reach what I consider to be a fair settlement with
my ex-wife. This period of my life was so stressful and difficult that I vowed
I would NEVER get married again.
However, once my divorce was final, and
I DO MEAN FINAL, I began to feel that I needed someone to share my life with.
During the several years my divorce took, I was so caught up in it, I never
had these feelings. So, friends began introducing me to women who they thought
would be a good match for me. Nothing clicked. I live in a small city, and
the number of available females in my age and demographic range is limited,
so one day, just for fun, I went to Yahoo and searched on “Russian Brides”.
Of course, hundreds of web sites came up. I was amazed! I
checked out many of these web sites, and found other sites that had discussion
groups and postings from the Russian (and foreign) bride community. It was
all very bewildering and confusing, and did not look real to me, especially
since I had seen several news programs that were critical regarding this subject.
At that time, I was just “looking around” for fun…..looking
at all the beautiful eastern European women that wanted husbands!
Then I hit upon Craig Rich’s web site. This was in March
of 2000, and his site had just gone on line in February. What impressed me
was the story of he and his wife, Arina. I read every page of his web site,
looked at some of the ladies on the site, and then e-mailed Craig with some
questions. We traded a few e-mails for a few days, and then Craig gave me
a call. We spoke about his experience, and he offered me a lot of information…so
much I was somewhat overwhelmed with it all.
After my early discussions with Craig, I was still just
“looking around”. I was not serious, yet, about trying to find a Russian bride.
But I was feeling more and more like I wanted something more than just my
work and dating local women….I wanted someone to share my life with.….a serious
So I took Craig’s advice, and studied ALL the women on his
web site. This time, I looked carefully at EVERY profile that was listed on
his web site, no matter how young, how old, or how attractive. I didn’t hurry….I
spent a lot of time doing this.
After all this study I wrote three ladies, and I got letters
back from two of them. I quickly developed relationships with both of them,
but within about six weeks, Olga was the one I was always thinking about,
and I literally fell in love with her after a few months. I thought to myself,
if this woman is anything like I believe she is from her letters, this is
one I would like to get to know personally.
Now, I know some people write to many, many women before
this happens. In hindsight, perhaps I was lucky, perhaps it was fate, I don’t
know. I am sure your experience will be different. But, I knew I could not
be true to myself and carry on multiple relationships, even if they were just
When I had first talked to Craig, I was not sure if I was
serious, but I did know one thing: Craig and Volgagirl were for real. It wasn’t
just some web site somewhere that was just looking for my money. Once I spoke
with Craig, I knew he was for real and would do his best to help me find a
wonderful Russian woman, if that is what I wanted.
As stated above, I quickly developed relationships with two
women, and within a short time, narrowed it down to just one. My advice for
letter writing is to be brutally honest with what you are looking for, what
you are like, and so forth. I spent hours composing my letters, spending time
to be sure they put forth my feelings about life, explaining my personality,
desires in life, but also spending time to be sure, as best I could, that
what I said would not be misunderstood due to cultural differences or translation
errors. These were the most intense letters I have ever written.
When I had first started my discussions with Craig, in early
March of 2000, I told one of my best friends about what I had discovered,
as he was in a similar situation to me, being recently divorced. By May, he
had developed relationships with several girls also.
You can only write so many letters, and then the time comes
to decide what you are going to do. I believe from my personal experience
and from my discussions with Craig that most guys who write these letters
never follow through and actually go to visit any of the ladies they write
to. Perhaps nothing serious developed, perhaps they were never serious and
just wanted to have pen pals, I don’t know. I do know all the women to whom
my friend and I wrote are very serious in their desire to find a life partner.
That is their main desire, and it is very difficult now in Russia for these
wonderful, sweet women to establish the kind of relationship with “locals”
that is possible with someone from the “west”.
It is heartbreaking to these sweet, wonderful women to receive
letters from guys who, in the beginning seem serious, but really are not.
Please, if you are not serious, do not “play” with these people.
So, one evening in May, 2000, my friend, who lives in another
state, and I were on the phone discussing what to do, and he said we must
go to Russia to see these girls, or “we would never know what might have happened”.
As I have said, when I started this process, I was just “looking around”,
but now it had become something more, and it was decision time.
Now, you should know that, at least for me, it was a major
undertaking to travel to Togliatti, in expense, time, and emotions. I knew
I was taking a risk, but it was a risk I ultimately became willing to take.
So, after much discussion with my friend and Craig Rich,
we made plans to go to Togliatti. I can now tell you that was the best decision
I have ever made. It cannot be made lightly. It takes much commitment, money,
and time away from one’s work, family, etc.
I won’t go into all the details about how to arrange the
travel to Togliatti, but if you don’t have a valid passport, get it now, even
if you are not sure you will ever travel to Togliatti. Even if you never go,
it is always a good idea to have a passport. Just go to any post office to
get the form, and be sure you have a “certified” copy of your birth certificate.
Also, it is very easy to get your visa from the Russian
Consulate in New York….just fill out the visa application and send a copy
of the picture page of your passport and three passport type pictures with
the fee to the Russian National Service (www.russia-travel.com).
There really is nothing to it!
When you travel to Russia, I recommend you fly on Aeroflot.
Their service is excellent, the fares are reasonable, and they offer direct
service from New York to Moscow. Just follow all the good advice and links
on Volgagirl.com and you can’t go wrong.
Finally the BIG day came! Thursday, June 15, 2000. My friend
and I met up in New York and left at 3:00 PM for Russia and Togliatti. We
traveled with Craig and his wife Arina. As of this writing, I have made five
trips to Russia, and I recommend you go on at least your first trip to Togliatti
with the aid of Volgagirl. Without their help, we would have been lost!
We arrived about 8:00 AM the next morning (Friday, June 16),
due to the 9 hour flight time and 8 hour time difference. Our flight to Togliatti
was not until about 7 PM that evening, so we spent the day touring and sight
seeing in Moscow. What an experience! We rode the Metro (subway) and visited
Red Square. Growing up during the Cold War, I remembered all the military
parades they used to have there.
Finally the time came, and we took the 90 minute flight
to Togliatti, arriving at about 9:30 PM (due to the one hour difference in
time between Moscow and Togliatti), and were driven the 60 km trip from the
airport to the hotel in Togliatti. It was still light! Due to the northern
latitude, it does not get dark in summer until about 11:30 PM! By the time
we got to our rooms, it was after 1:00 AM (now early Saturday morning) local
time, and about 11:00 AM the next day US Central Time. Needless to say, we
were so tired we felt like Zombies!
My plan was to meet Olga that Saturday evening at a special
dinner hosted by Craig and Arina. A lot of Volgagirl staff was on hand, and
I engaged the services of a translator, as Olga didn’t know much English.
My friend and one of the girls he had corresponded with were also at this
dinner. The dinner went well, but there was not a lot of time for Olga and
me to get to know each other one on one.
The next day (Sunday), Olga hired a taxi for the entire
afternoon, and she showed me her city. What an experience! Life in Togliatti
cannot be described as just different than that in the US….rather it is an
entirely different reality of life as we know it. The blocks of flats (apartments)
reminded me of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”. I found it all extremely
interesting. But most interesting was meeting in person and getting to know
My friend and I left Togliatti for the US on June 28. I had
spent the entire time I was there with Olga. By the third day I felt like
she was the person I had been looking for all my life. After my first trip,
I called her every day. I planned a second trip to Togliatti, this time going
for two weeks in late July and early August. It was on this trip that I decided,
for sure, to ask Olga for her hand in marriage.
I missed my Olga so much that I went to visit her in Russia
a third time. This time I went for almost a month, in September. Instead of
going to Togliatti, we met in Moscow, and stayed at one of the Moscow Marriott
hotels for 5 days. The first day, I presented her an engagement ring, so from
this point we were officially engaged. We then took a 14-day “Russian River
Cruise”, which went from Moscow to St. Petersburg over series of canals, rivers
and lakes. The cruise ship stopped many places, and was extremely interesting
for both Olga and myself. After the 14-day cruise, we stayed in St. Petersburg
for 9 days.
My personal belief is: it is very important for anyone considering
this method of finding a life partner to really get to know one another other.
You will have a head start from your letter writing, if you put the effort
into writing really in-depth letters. But, from my experience, this can only
truly be done if you have the resources (time and money) to visit with her
in-person, because it is you who must travel to meet your prospective wife
in Russia (or some other country where she can freely travel).
Besides time and money, you must have a lot of patience
dealing with INS. You can get all the INS forms you need from their web site,
and BELIEVE ME, it is not necessary to employ the services of an immigration
attorney. All they can do is properly fill out the forms, which you should
be able to do yourself. Once the I-129F (and other forms and papers that go
with it) are filed with the appropriate INS service center, there is nothing
an attorney can do for you that you cannot do yourself.
On my second trip to Russia, feeling like everything was
going well with Olga and myself, I had brought with me all the INS forms that
Olga needed to sign. She had gathered her birth certificate, divorce decree,
police report, and other required papers, and when I got back to the US, I
express mailed the I-129F petition to the INS on August 4. Olga did not have
an International Passport, so at that time we also went to the government
office that issues passports in Togliatti and she (and her son) made application
for their International Passports so we would have them when we needed them.
These things take their own time in Russia, and it is better to be prepared
sooner than later.
The INS said they would take about 45 days to act on my
petition, but it was not approved until the end of October….almost 90 days.
I immediately traveled to Russia again (my 4th trip) in early November,
even before the US Consulate in Moscow scheduled Olga’s interview. I met Olga
in Moscow, we went to the US Consulate, and were able to get her interview
scheduled for the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. We then traveled to Togliatti
to gather what personal possessions of hers we could bring to the US, and
then traveled back to Moscow and awaited her interview. During this time we
spent a lot of time sightseeing and going to museums, concerts, ballets, etc.
Finally, the fateful day came, Tuesday, November 28, 2000, and we took the
Moscow Metro (subway) from our hotel to the Consulate early that morning.
Please note: when it comes time for the interview, there
is a lot more paperwork that is submitted, the morning of the interview. But,
at least in our case, the interview took less than 5 minutes. Besides all
the required forms and paperwork, what they are looking for in the interview
is evidence that you and your fiancée have a real relationship.
After the interview, we were told to return later that afternoon
to pick up our passports, which had the Visa’s glued inside. We went back
to the Consulate that afternoon, and got the passports with the Visa’s, and
that was that!
While we were in Togliatti gathering Olga’s possessions,
we had gone to the local Aeroflot ticket office (we found out the hard way
that there are three Aeroflot ticket offices in Togliatti – but only one issues
tickets for international flights) to purchase Olga’s and her son’s tickets
and change the return date on my ticket. Knowing the interview would be on
November 28, we booked our tickets to travel to the US on November 30. I was
not sure if they would issue Olga and her son tickets for the US without first
having a US visa, but they did. By the way, bring a lot of Rubles, they only
So, on November 30, we found ourselves at the Moscow Airport,
Sheremetyevo-2, waiting for the flight. We made it through Passport Control
without a hitch, and about 10 hours later were waiting in NYC to go through
customs, then to the INS office. All went without problems, and we finally
found ourselves at our home in the US.
Once we got to the US, Olga and her son …………….
(To be continued in Part II)
Please note: I am happy to speak with anyone Craig is working
with to answer any questions. Just ask Craig e-mail me your phone number and
e-mail address, and I will get in touch with you.