06 Oct From Russia With Love?

Lately I’ve been receiving — unsolicited–amorous emails from Russian women. Three so far. It’s the kind of thing I’ve come to expect from the internet, like letters that invite me to invest in a stranger’s good fortune by sending $10,000 to a Nigerian bank account in exchange for the promise of a return that is ten times that amount. But these emails aren’t asking for money, they’re asking for a reply. The first email says this,

Hello!!! I’am Katya,
I became interested to know more about your
personality, I’am 31, I will tell you a little bit about myself.
I try to look with optimism at things, it helps me to overcome
difficulties in a life. I try to keep myself in good mood!
I sociable woman, and I have many friends. I work as dentist
in hospital in Kazan, this is my city. If you want to know me
better i would be glad to see your replay. Have a nice day
from russia. My E-mail is: ********@gmail.com

I don’t know how Katya and the others got my address. I do not visit questionable sites on the internet nor do I freely give out my email address. However, I do buy a lot of products on the internet and I have signed up for a lot memberships and subscriptions that demand my email. Apparently somebody at some organization is selling its database to vendors.

Sadly, I assumed that Katya is a prostitute and her letter a scam. She attached a photo. I debated for a full week before I opened it, figuring it could be a virus bomb. But I’ve never heard of a photo carrying a computer virus — usually those traps ask you to open a document. When I opened the photo at last, I found this picture. Sure enough, Katya is wearing the clinical garb of a dentist or a dentist’s assistant. And she looks like decent person searching for a mate.

In the pre-internet days, I heard of older men sending for mail-order brides from the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. When I was a child, one of my parents’ widower friends married a much younger woman from Korea and created a stir. But she proved to be a faithful, loving companion to the end of his days. The tacit understanding among these men and their foreign brides was that it was mutually beneficial, the men getting a pretty, dutiful wife and the women getting American citizenship and a middle-class life.

We could consider the unbidden solicitations from women in Russia just another element of the global marketplace. There are websites dedicated to this proposition. Enter “Russian brides” in your search engine and see what comes up. Apparently there are numerous “agencies” that broker deals between Russian women and their foreign paramours. One blog makes this complaint:

The first statement “None of the ladies are paid to use our service” Is a flat out lie ! Most of the ladies in chat at Russian Love Match and Hot Russian Brides are paid. It’s a job for girls. It’s their job to keep you spending your money on nothing but lies. The girls are sitting and waiting for a chat window to open the second you log on to the web site. The second statement “They come to the agencies out of their own determination” Is true. The girls go to the agencies because it’s a job for them and they like making anywhere from two hundred US Dollars a night and more. Be sure they thank you for the money from all the gifts too. Most of the time, money you send for gifts is split between the girls and the agency.

Katya looks like a free agent, but she must have paid to have obtained my email address. And it’s possible that she is in somebody’s employ in an effort to extract gifts and cash from America. She may even be married. But, unlike the glossy websites and their photos of Russian bedroom bunnies, Katya appears to be the real deal. Her photo is unassuming in the extreme. She could be a divorced mother of two children looking for a chance at getting out of Russia. She is from Kazan, a few hundred miles east of Moscow. Situated on the Volga River, it’s the third largest city in Russia, a cultured city with medieval roots and a multi-cultural population that spans the Muslim/Christian divide. It has a successful pro soccer team, a ballet company, many colleges and universities (see http://www.gotokazan.com/).

If Katya does get out, will she end up, say, in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, McMansion, reveling as she barefoots across her new wall-to-wall off-white carpet? Will she take English classes at the community college and study diligently for her citizenship exam while waiting for her kids to get home from Christian private school? Will she make cabbage rolls — her specialty — for her husband, a manager at the local oil refinery? Will he allow her to send for her mother? Will he rave to his friends about her borscht, as well as her beauty, and call her “my little matruska doll”? And some days, when she gazing down at her competent hands and daydreaming of returning to dentistry, will she picture the snowy Volga River and the minarets of the Kazan mosques and the clamorous crowd of the Kazan footbol club when it wins its division title and ask herself, “Why did I ever send those emails?”