August 22, 2007

Russia - reasons to stay

If you haven't already done so, you might like to get over to Shades, where I have a post up on life in Russia - another in the series. I'm not cross-posting it here but rather continuing it below:

Alina Kabaeva

I don't know how much she'd appreciate it but my former girlfriend is the catalyst for this post.
She does appear in my first book called Obsession [and part of the second] and obsession is what I had for her and for some years, she for me.

I came over here some time after meeting her in London and in those days it was still rare for an ordinary Russian to travel overseas but it was even rarer for an Englishman to travel to the fSU much beyond Moscow.

He'd have to have a reason and he did in my case. Her. The story is in the novel which you can get to from the sidebar or profile.

The thing is that the reputation of Russian girls generally has gone through an extraordinary transformation over a decade and not necessarily for the good.

All we'd ever had to go on was deep voiced Leonid or Boris of the Politburo saying Da or Nyet and taking the salute in Red Square as the tanks rolled past or else those ice dancers and gymnasts pictured top left and lower right.

It was a coincidental thing because I'd been watching the Olympics and there'd been a close-up of one of the winners, Oksana Grischuk and beside her the sort of square shaped woman you wouldn't want to mess with - her minder, who kept stroking and "minding" her all the way through.

When OG saw she'd won, she gave a little gasp of joy, so restrained and I knew there and then I'd have to have one of those. It's testimony to the ego that it never crossed my mind that I had neither the means nor the Don Juanishness to do this.

Then, one day in September, she came. Not the dancer but a young lady even better, shy and yet knowing what she wanted and she'd decided what she wanted was proximity to me. Was I complaining?

The rest is history and we became an item.

The western press was initially full of praise for the new kind of Russian girl coming out and though it was a much later story, [from 2003], the tale of Natalia Vodianova sums it up. The press called her hardworking, beautiful, willing to listen and be directed, unlike her western sisters.

No argument there - that's what I was finding too. Then something occurred which changed it all in western eyes - Anna Kournikova. 'Nuff said. I've seen countless pics of her and countless pics of my girl and I still say [and many who know her agree] that mine eclipses AK.

Years passed and I met many Russians - the good and the not so good. There were many females you just couldn't trust. It began to dawn on me that I'd scored one of the better types, capricious though she was and a little too immodestly dressed for my liking but wondrous in the arms.

Around this time, articles began to appear in the western press about Russian women wanting to leave the country and I put it to my girl. Nope - she wasn't averse to a trip or two but to leave permanently - no.

Still the articles appeared and they weren't nice, such as one entitled Reds in Beds, which was so anachronistic I shouldn't have bothered:

The collapse of the
Soviet Union has left its people demoralised and poor. Many women are looking for a way out as a whole generation of men is lost to a pernicious cycle of unemployment, alcoholism and despair. Meanwhile, in Australia, men with good jobs lead lonely, unfulfilled lives, complaining that women in their own country are "too pushy, too bossy or too spoilt'.

I took this to university and put it to the girls for discussion, assuring them I didn't accept it but what did they think? They were apoplectic. It's s-o-o-o wrong, they universally said. It suggests we have no brain, no talent, no way to make up our own mind. Is it true about Australian women?

I smiled and didn't reply but stats years later confirmed that part of the article had been correct:

Russian spouse visas to Australia:

1999-2000 64 female and 21 male

2003-2004 443 female and 99 male

The stats on females are one thing but the stats on males are also interesting - they were tending to go overseas to get into businesses and trading.

We saw the new problem on a trip to Cyprus when we went on safari and I found myself in a bar with the Greek driver who asked how long I'd had her [my girl].
He was amazed - he usually changed his after a few weeks. Promise them the earth, put them in a condo, have your way, disappear and they have to go home at the end of their visa stay.

My darling was upset by all this and the whisperings in the hotel and elsewhere that she was only with me because of my money quietly began a rift. A girl's not going to put up with that sort of thing for long.

What she knew though, through her work for the airline, was that many Russian girls did overstay their visas and there was a UK stat at one time that 42% between the ages of 18 and 25 absconded at the end of their stay.

About 2002 the marriage market really got into full swing plus the mafia run Eastern European porn supply and this further cheapened relations between foreign men and Russian girls. I was appalled myself because I was now cast in a light which had palpably not been the case when I'd first come over here.

Part of the problem was the way the Russian girl was portrayed to potential marriage partners - western men of a certain age.

"Aussic men want life after Lycra," says Richard Dennison, who is making a documentary about Russian mail-order brides to be screened later this year. "Women in
Australia run around in their tracksuit bottoms with little caps and ponytails," he says. "But men want a life beyond that, and they find the earthy, exotic soul of Russian women very attractive, partly because the Russians have a much more traditional approach to relationships and forming a comfortable home life."

This is garbage. True, North American and Aussie men have just about had it up to here with their feministic women but to think that the new crop of Russian girls are any different is the fallacy peddled by the marriage market.

The "home values" and "obedient girls" may appeal to men but these are the values of the previous generation; this is what the girls have been told to write and they've been told to dress half nakedly the better to score a man, so they think. Truth is they're anything but homebodies and the girls signing up for these things want travel, lots of cash and independence - quite the opposite of what Mr. Dennison was stating.

The result was a huge flood of scams, prompting sites such as this which promise to filter any girl's approach to a western man for possible chantage. Often the "girls" are fat, cigar smoking Russian men in a backroom with a computer, who have a bevy of girls "signed" to scam the west via e-mail.

By 2003, it was becoming near impossible for a Russian girl, independently travelling, to get a visa into Europe in summer, particularly to Spain, as we found to our cost - and the stifled smirks which greeted us whenever we walked into a travel agent were grating.

In the end, [not for that reason necessarily but it certainly didn't help], we broke up and now occasionally meet around town.
I think we miss each other.

Crossed posted at


Gracchi said...

The situation of those girls in those dating agencies must be incredibly sad. I heard a radio program once about a tour of western men to the Ukraine and the account about it was a picture of despair. The despair of the men unable to have a relationship without the enducement of money, the despair of the women trapped often in poverty. And you have added another kind of reason for that to be despaired at- the fact that even a genuine relationship with a Russian woman can be seen in the West as another mail order bride relationship.