Story transcripts

The Bride Business

Friday, July 22, 2011

Reporter: Michael Usher
Producer: Danny Keens

Some people will go to any lengths to find love.

But these blokes have literally travelled to the very ends of the earth.

They've had enough of the bolshie Sheilas who hang out at their local pub.

They want old-fashioned women with old-fashioned values.

And they're prepared to trek to the most remote reaches of Russia and Ukraine to find them.

It's a well-worn path - every year thousands of single Aussie men venture to Eastern Europe on special wife-hunting tours.

Michael Usher jumped on board for the ride.

Story contacts:

Anastasia Date (US/ Russian company) offers bus tours through Ukraine.

Heavenly Hearts (Australian company) dating marriage agency

Full transcript:

MICHAEL USHER: The Ukrainian city of Odessa on the banks of the black sea was once a powerful port in the Soviet Union’s Cold War with the West. But today, these tourists – all Westerners and all men - get the warmest of welcomes.

WOMAN: If you want to find love, we are waiting for you.

MICHAEL USHER: Eastern European brides are the Ukraine’s most famous export.

ANASTASIA: Hello. I’m Anastasia and I look for the husband.

ANNA: I want husband. I don’t know maybe European, maybe American man?

MICHAEL USHER: What about a Ukrainian man?

ANNA: I don’t like Ukrainian men.

MICHAEL USHER: The bride business is booming as men from all corners of the globe flock here in search of love.

ROGER: Probably the most beautiful women you have ever seen.

MICHAEL USHER: On packaged tours like this, they’re offered a dazzling array of willing brides to choose from.

DEREK: It’s just amazing. Look around. Come on.

OWEN: I’m looking a woman who’s going to stop me dead in my tracks. That has the ‘wow’ factor to it.

MICHAEL USHER: Owen Williams has come from Western Australia to give Cupid one more change and so far, he’s not disappointed.

OWEN: The calibre of the women over here is unreal.

MICHAEL USHER: Owen is 45 years old, divorced and so far, unlucky in love.

OWEN: I had a relationship which didn’t go too well for me at the start of the year and it pre-empted me to think further abroad.

MICHAEL USHER: Owen works for Rio Tinto in the Pilbara where dating opportunities are rare. On his 10-day bus tour of the Ukraine, he’ll have the chance to meet hundreds of women and this time, he knows what he wants. What are you looking for?

OWEN: Essentially, I’m looking for someone to be my wife, mother of my children, mistress of my life, lover and the other woman. Just all in one woman though!

MICHAEL USHER: There are a lot of boxes to tick there?

OWEN: Oh yes!

RYAN: There are just beautiful girls and they are just lovely.

MICHAEL USHER: 32-year-old Ryan Gibson, from Perth, has also hit some blind alleys on the road to true love. He’s come to Eastern Europe hoping to turn back the clock a little.

RYAN: I’m in the Ukraine looking for a girl that has sort of got some old-fashioned values. I just haven’t found them in the circles that I have been working around in Australia.

MICHAEL USHER: What’s wrong with the women at home?

RYAN: Oh, different things. I’ve been cheated on, lied to, done different things to and not just one time but I mean, a couple of lessons have cost me a lot of money and that’s what I’m looking for, a bit of honesty and integrity.

MICHAEL USHER: Fair to say, you have been burned?

RYAN: Oh yeah, definitely.

MICHAEL USHER: But on tour in Ukraine, men like Ryan and Owen have the upper hand. The rules of engagement are completely reversed and suddenly it’s the women who are doing the wooing. What is it about Ukrainian women, Russian women?

OWEN: They’re strong, they’re unique, and they’re beautiful. They’ve got great family values. It’s not just one thing. It’s the whole thing put together.

LARRY: It’s like a kid in a candy shop. It is rare that a man walks into a situation and he will have so much choice.

MICHAEL USHER: Larry Cevantes is a veteran of the local dating scene and is now a tour coordinator himself.

LARRY: This seems to be the place where beautiful woman just spawn naturally.

MICHAEL USHER: And local girls are literally lining up for the chance to snare themselves a love tourist.

LARRY: There is no pretence at this gathering’s. Everybody knows what they’re there for. They are there to find somebody, they are there to find romance, they are there to hook-up and they’re there to find a mate.

MICHAEL USHER: The search usually starts on-line.

GARY: It was something I looked at a long, long time ago but never got around to and then it got to a point where I just thought it was time to bite the bullet and get out there and do it.

MICHAEL USHER: Dating agency websites cater exclusively for this market, listing thousands of Eastern European women wanting to be western wives. Where do you find all of these women?

LARRY: There is a big industry here, there is a cultural movement here where woman are actively looking for men for marriage, for romance from a very early age.

MICHAEL USHER: Which means for Owen and his bus full of eligible bachelors, the odds aren’t bad. At this one function they’ll be presented with 300 potential brides.

GIRL: Julia from Odessa.

SEB: Thank-you, Julia from Odessa.

MICHAEL USHER: And it looks like Owen has a couple of prospects already.

LADY: Maybe she can also write for you email address.

OWEN: Yeah.

MICHAEL USHER: How do I understand what today is all about here?

IRENA: Oh, today, just ladies want to find their soul mate and they think man come for same reason.

MICHAEL USHER: What sort of a man are you looking for?

IRENA: Oh, I’m looking for fairytale.

MICHAEL USHER: It’s not long before Owen takes on the role of prince charming.

IRENA: Oh, love it! You have got to stay out of the sun. That’s just sensational.

MICHAEL USHER: And as the afternoon wore on, the ice was well and truly broken. While Owen let his dance moves do the talking, a team of interpreters were on hand to get over any language barriers but there was little they could do about the very obvious age gaps. It was literally on for young and old. These young women dancing with men older enough to be their fathers, can we genuinely believe they are interested in them?

LARRY: One of the questions I ask is “what kind of a man are you looking for?” And the response is “I’m looking for a man like my daddy”.

MICHAEL USHER: I can understand them searching for a strong man, but doesn’t it look like they end up dancing with dirty old men?

LARRY: Well, you could put it in a lot of different ways.

RICHARD: I’d really like to find a wife. I’m much older than average but I try to stay in shape.

MICHAEL USHER: But there must be a fine lady back in New Jersey who would love to fall in love with you?

RICHARD: Well, that’s not really my problem. Most of the women I run into fall in love with my pay cheque rather than me.

MICHAEL USHER: Does age worry you at all, because there does seem to be a very big age difference here? The girls are very young.

ROGER: Yeah, it does worry me, but here it doesn’t seem to worry them.

MICHAEL USHER: Not surprisingly, this sort of tourism has its critics in the Ukraine and they’re not just vocal, they’re highly visible.

INNA: Yes, we are beautiful, we are sexy, we are wearing erotic clothes and something like that but I don’t want to be a meat for someone.

MICHAEL USHER: Inna Schevchenko and her group, Femen fight for Ukrainian women’s rights by protesting nude and - as I was to discover – giving extremely revealing interviews. What do you think of these men who come on these tours?

INNA: I hate these men because this is not people. They are like animals who are coming to have sex and nothing more.

MICHAEL USHER: But the men on these tours, they say they are looking for love.

INNA: Yes, they promise to our girls that “yes I will marry you and I love you” but this is for two or three days or for a weekend. Ukrainian girl, they really want to be marry a foreigner and to leave the country because this is the one chance for them to change their situation.

MICHAEL USHER: But Ryan Gibson says his intentions are nothing but honourable. Are you searching for a wife?

RYAN: Yes.

MICHAEL USHER: So one of these girls you will marry?

RYAN: Definitely. It’s going to be a life commitment here. Hi, I’m Ryan.

ANYA: I’m Anya.

MICHAEL USHER: He’s chosen one of the more discreet packaged tours which he arranges 20 one-on-one dates with women he nominated online.

RYAN: Would you be scared of going to Australia?

OLGA: I think it’s not scary but I need to be sure in my partner.

MICHAEL USHER: It’s a bit like speed dating with cultural complications thrown in.

RYAN: You speak a little bit of English, don’t you?

TANYA: A little bit.

MICHAEL USHER: But one lady is so keen, she’s invited Ryan home to meet mum and we’re all welcome.

TATIYANA: I’m Tatiyana.

MICHAEL USHER: Irina is clearly smitten and despite a power blackout, her mum Tatiyana is doing her best to set the mood. After the serenading comes the family photo album. You are very proud of your daughter. This is your date. Can you please come in and find out about Irina? And finally, we sit-down to a meal where Ryan wants for nothing. Mum’s laid on the big spread for you. Irina’s now feeding you. Feeling a bit happy, Ryan?

RYAN: Um, a bit overwhelmed, yeah.

MICHAEL USHER: Ryan speaks no Russian, and Irina no English, but down behind the vegie patch, they’re finding no need for our translator, Luda. Is this the language of love that we’re seeing perhaps?

LUDA: Yes, yes. Possible. Yes. Language love.

MICHAEL USHER: Nice to see. You’re out of a job though!

LUDA: Possibly.

GARY: She’s gorgeous. I’d actually call her a packet of dynamite. She’s got a lot of fire in her. She actually has a military background which you’d never pick for how she looks like and how she is for personality but yeah, a strong lady.

MICHAEL USHER: Perhaps the seeds of a blossoming romance have been sewn, but for now, Ryan must return home to Perth and will stay in touch on line. As for Owen and his Irina – they’ve decided to stay friends, and leave it at that. Both men will come back. Now more convinced than ever that this is where they’ll find their soul mate. So if you find the right woman here you are prepared to get down on one knee and ask her to marry you?

OWEN: I definitely am. Everyone wants to share their life with someone. They want to be happy, looked after, made to feel special. I’m like everyone in that respect. That’s what I want in my life and that’s what I want to be for someone as well.

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