He then spent thousands of hours and thousands of dollars chatting with them online. Things were going swimmingly with both women. He assumed that his trip to Odessa would involve picking the one he liked most and taking her back with him. But when he arrived, neither of them answered his calls. While Todd's expectations for what a Ukrainian bride might offer were patently unrealistic, it was troubling to watch him venture ever further down the path of disappointment.
Many of the men on the tour were less sympathetic characters than Todd, but all of them were lonely. Some of them were disillusioned with dating scenes in the west, where women did not give them a look; others recovering from a divorce or the death of a spouse. Another man I spent a lot of time with was Stephen, a year-old from Texas, long-divorced, who was on his 11th trip to Ukraine with the desperate hope of finding a wife. I'm tired of having nobody to share my life with. Stephen ended up meeting a pianist named Elena on the tour.
On date two she told him she thought he could be her soulmate. By the end of the week he was sure he had found his future life partner. It was an expensive week, with the dinners, taxis, and payment for a translator all adding up, but Stephen was delighted that he had found love. But love in Odessa is not all it seems. Perhaps 10 years ago, the scenario had been what I imagined, with men swooping in, and women keen to swap the hard grind of poverty-stricken Ukraine for a new life in the US, even if it was a ramshackle house in a North Dakotan town or a sleepy midwestern farm, rather than a Manhattan penthouse or LA beachfront home.
Now, it seems, things are different. I left Stephen ready to propose, but two months later he told me by email that it had all unravelled. Todd did not even get to the date stage; in retrospect, perhaps a lucky escape. The women took their cut of cash for chatting with him, but did not answer his calls when he arrived. He later wrote to me: I've decided to close that chapter in my life and move on.
And to pursue the other hopes and dreams that I have. Will I ever find my other half? One can only wonder. At least I can say I tried. If I die a bachelor, so be it. I was able to uncover exactly how the scams work due to a chance encounter with Alina, one of the women involved, who felt weighed down by her collusion in what she called "emotional prostitution".
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