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Start of the international marriage

Poor American guys do not know that their Russian brides have too many hopes about them and their life in the U.S.

Keith’s notes

Russian-American couple April 1998 Anticipating Oksana’s arrival to the United States, my friends’ and family’s true characters came out. One family member was very upset that I could possibly be marrying a atheist. Other friends were very cautious and reserved. Others were sincerely excited for me. And yet others were sincerely concerned. Prior to this, a year of correspondence through letters, e-mail, and phone calls had led up to a meeting in Moscow. Moscow was every person’s romantic fantasy. It was beautiful. We met in November, and I began to fall in love.

The day has finally come. My friends came over and helped me clean. I have cleared out a closet and dresser for her. I have tried to make my simple one-bedroom apartment into a home that is inviting, pleasant, and cheerful.

I met Oksana at JFK airport in New York. She surprised me from behind at the airport with a big hug. She looked as if she had a serious thought on her mind. She told me that she must meet her friend’s daughter here to deliver a letter. We did it.

Then we took a taxicab to our hotel and met my brother and sister-in-law for dinner in the northern part of the city. Oksana did not know what to order, and I had very little success in explaining the menu to her.
She seemed to be very tired. It was cold from the draft coming in the door behind our backs. We had a very good dinner, and went to the hotel. In the hotel, she was again cold and tired. We took a shower and went to sleep, because we had to get up at 4:00 a.m. for our flight to Atlanta.

Upon arriving in Atlanta, we were met by our friend Rick. He and our friends Galina and Dewitt met us at the airport. I wanted to show Oksana how many people were so eagerly awaiting her arrival, so I had planned a small party for those people who had helped me in the preparations.

This turned into a disaster rather quickly. Oksana overdressed for the occasion, despite my advice. She became cold and tired and uncomfortable very fast. This was a big disappointment to those guests. I found her in the bedroom by herself soon after she had eaten, sulking. She asked me gruffly, “When will they go?”

I asked everyone to leave, explaining that we were very tired, especially Oksana. She needed more rest after her eighteen-hour flight, her first New York experience and all the excitement of coming to America.

Oksana's notes about the wedding

For the first time in my life I saw blooming magnolias and friendly squirrels all over place! I enjoyed seeing tall pines and flowers, but I could not breathe. It was too humid for me. I could only breathe in conditioned one bedroom apartment in a buck head area, Keith was renting.

If my Russian friends and family knew what kind of wedding I would get, they would have pitied poor Oksana and Keith.
I learned about American life from movies. I watched a TV show called Santa Barbara for some years. I was sure that my wedding would be something gorgeous like the weddings on this show.

I had no idea that stupid flowers would cost so much money! The majority of people in Russia and Uzbekistan do not get paid $400 in a year! Here in America, we spent that crazy sum for some small bouquets.

My rosy vision about the U.S. started to disappear day by day after my arrival. I was disappointed by the U.S. even before my wedding. I found out that we never had enough money for the kind of wedding and fun I wanted. I thought that my first months in the U.S. would be full of restaurants, museums, and theaters. No. Keith had to work as a computer programmer at Lanier, and I could really only spend time with him in the evenings and on weekends. He was trying to entertain me, but I heard a lot about saving money for the wedding. I was sure that the words “sacrifice” and “savings” existed only in the socialistic society back in Russia.

I could not imagine that Keith and I would have to spend some days cleaning the restaurant where the ceremony would take place.

Before my arrival to the U.S., Keith told me that he was going to buy a restaurant with his friends. He wanted to be one of the investors.

This information impressed my father very much! He loved the idea that his son-in-law would be an owner of a private business. We had no idea that “the restaurant” was a big, old building in poor repair without any kind of equipment. When I saw this place for the first time, I got very frustrated. I have never seen such dirty windows, walls, toilets, and so many flies. There were not enough lights, and there was no water. It was just a piece of dirty land covered with bricks and beer advertisements.

No, I did not like the idea of having to clean the place where my own wedding would take place. However, we did not have money for a nicer place, because Keith had invested money in this restaurant. He could not get more money before our wedding. Keith trusted his partners, but they ripped him off. We did not have a really nice wedding because of Keith’s sneaky, black “friends.”

I thought that I came to the U.S. to enjoy my life and to not care about money. It was hard to see that things were different than I had thought. Preparation for the wedding was hard work. Some of our Atlanta friends were helping us. At that time, I did not think about how much they did for us and for me in particular. I was so surprised by everything that I could not think clearly.

I had just come to the U.S. and already had to hear from Keith words that I never expected to hear from an American: “We have no money. We have to save money.”

All my life in Tashkent, I had heard the same thing from my parents! I thought that I had changed my life radically! I changed the country, the language, and the culture, but I could not change the rules of life! I still had to be practical and think about money.

You cannot imagine how bad I felt. I was thinking that all Russian women try to escape from the different republics of the Soviet Union, and they do not have to think about money at all in the U.S., the country of paradise! Poor American guys do not know that their Russian brides have too many hopes about them and their life in the U.S.

Well, let’s get back to my wedding. There were not enough lights in the restaurant. You should see our wedding video. It is pretty dark! We had no money to pay for a professional one. Keith’s friend said that his gift to us would be our wedding video. I thought that he would pay to have a professional take the video. No. He used our videocassette and our video camera! He chose a position right in front of the windows, in front of the sunlight, and stood there without moving through the whole ceremony! Our wedding video came out really bad. He made a video of us taking pictures and eating.

He was so irresponsible that he was in a hurry to go out on a date. He had the responsibility to make a video of the most important day in our life, and he ran out on a date. Do you think I could forgive this? We do not even have the video of our cake, of all our guests, of people dancing, and of all the fun! All Keith’s family members flew in from Ohio and Pennsylvania to be at our wedding! Do you think our wonderful video man took the time to videotape this important moment when all the family was together? No, he did not, just because he had a date. How can I respect people who cannot keep their promises or control their physical needs? Well, I was upset that Keith had depended on this kind of weak and good-for-nothing person. He was to me like another “face of America.”

Keith’s brother Kevin Leslie from New Jersey was our photographer at our wedding. He worked hard, and he used seven rolls of film to take pictures of our guests and events. We appreciated his help a lot. At the time, I had no idea how much money he had saved us. Thank you, Kevin!

Thank you, God. Keith has a very good and helpful family.

Do you know that Keith’s sister Kim and his parents Richard and Joann helped to make the restaurant nicer, too? Oh, Kim bought toilet paper, napkins, trashcans, and hand soap for the restaurant.

Do you think this sounds funny? “Sister bought trash cans and toilet paper for brother’s wedding.” To me, it sounds somewhat embarrassing, but on the other hand it sounds respectful. I got to know Keith’s family in an extreme situation!
Keith’s Uncle Larry from MacClenny, Florida, made it to our wedding with his beautiful wife Joann Nolder. Uncle Larry was a very sick person, so he could not make it to his sons’ wedding. However, he was my honorary “father,” because I did not have any relatives at the wedding to give me away. Keith’s brother Kyle and his family flew in to be at our wedding, too! It was really impressive, because they had just had a baby in April of 1998! They came to see us at the end of May with a two-month-old baby! I do not think that I would be as brave as that.

Now I want to say several words about my friend. I grew up with Alina Groysman. We used to go to the same childcare center as well as to the same public school. We were neighbors and friends since we were five years old. She came to the U.S. with her family and started her new life in San Francisco. I will never be able to forget her financial help to me while I lived in Uzbekistan. She used to send me $50 for my birthdays. It was a real help to me when I was a student and later when I was a teacher.

I had a dream to be in the U.S. and to see my friend Alina as the maid of honor at my wedding. My dream came true! Alina and her husband Alex were able to fly out from San Francisco to be guests at our wedding. Just think about it! I had a plan to be married to an American and to have my best friend Alina at my wedding as the maid of honor. I was so sure and so lucky! She could have just sent me $25 and a nice card with excuses like, Sorry; we do not have the money to fly to Atlanta from San Francisco.

Other special guests we had were Galina and Dewitt, who introduced us, and who helped us to meet each other through correspondence. If Dewitt had not married Galina from Uzbekistan, Keith would never have had the possibility to think of having a Russian woman as his possible soul mate, as his pen pal, or as his wife. Sometimes I feel that God let Galina meet Dewitt just because He had a plan for me to be married to Keith.

God blessed us with help. A lot of people helped us.

I want to say special words about Dawn Barkett. She was Keith’s girlfriend for four years before they broke up. They stayed friends after their separation. She knew that Keith did not have time and money to rent tables, chairs, tablecloths, plates, and glasses, so she rented everything for us. She has a big heart. She wanted to see Keith happy. Her gift for us was a night in the hotel Marriott Marquis. It was my first time ever in a really nice hotel. Dawn tried to do everything she could to be the greatest friend in the world.

We did not have enough money to make our wedding super unforgettable for our guests. However, we got them some small souvenirs – famous Russian dolls called Matrioshkies. It was Keith’s idea. Russians do not have the nice custom of presenting appreciation gifts to wedding guests.

I saw that a lot of the guests left our party before we cut the cake. In Uzbekistan early leaving would be considered an insult. I am sure that I was a bad hostess. I did not have enough confidence to speak with strangers. Keith’s brothers and sister had difficulty understanding my accent. I was afraid to go from one guest to another to talk, to ask questions, and to thank them. I was stressed out from being in America! I was surprised by Keith’s dad, who led the wedding ceremony. I did not know how to behave. I only cared how I would look in the pictures and on the video, and I wanted to talk to my Russian friends from Uzbekistan, Galina and Alina.

We had a Russian disk jockey that we invited from the Russian club. His name was Igor Kopnar. He was the owner of a travel agency. He was the guy who helped Keith to get his Russian visa and tickets to Moscow. Igor did a great job at our wedding by picking up some really good Russian, American, and Italian music.

I did not know that newlyweds were supposed to dance at their own wedding. Keith and I did not have any training to dance. However, our dance amazed everybody. People were sure that we had gone to some dance classes.
We were a perfect match for each other. Our bodies knew how to move, and what to do. It was an incredible discovery for me and for Keith. I had no idea that somebody could dance with me with so much understanding and passion. It was like a miracle.

The biggest miracle was my wedding. I knew that I had worked it out. I knew that God had helped me. I knew that God wanted me to be with Keith. I knew that I deserved a better life. I was sure that my wedding was not bad, but I had no idea that I would have to clean the place after the guests left! Did you ever meet a bride who had to clean the place of her wedding party after guests left? I was that bride.

I took off my white dress and put on my T-shirt and shorts right in the restaurant to clean everything up with Keith and the group of our friends: Chet and Thad Barkett, Carey Cox, Sherry, and several others.
When I think about my wedding, I think about a lot of cleaning and sweating. For Keith and me, our wedding was a lot of hard work.

My favorite aunt, Lena Rashevskaya, who practices holistic healing and psychology, wrote to me in one of her letters about my wedding.

Oksana, you have to be happy and proud that your marriage started with hard work. It is a very deep symbol of your life. You and Keith have cleaned your past. So your future will be clean and hopeful. The problems in your life drew people whom you can trust in the future. You did not know the personalities of Keith’s relatives and friends. So you had a splendid chance to see who is who!

However, if my wedding took place in Uzbekistan or Russia, I would not have to think about things like does maid of honor’s dress matches my wedding colors. In Uzbekistan or Russia a bride has only one maid of honor, who picks what she wants to wear. There are no matching bouquets. Brides get all kinds of flowers from guests as gift attachments. So, brides do not choose any flowers for their weddings! We do not have flower girls, also.

Bride does not have to wear “something old, something borrowed and something new” in Uzbekistan or Russia. I would not have to throw flowers to a crowd of single ladies.

I was a maid of honor at my friend’s wedding in Tashkent. My friend was half Tartar and half Uzbek. She was 17. He was 17 also, Uzbek, and a very handsome and intelligent young man. It was their first love. The couple was driven with some close family members to a civil court, where they signed papers. Their marriage was registered. Then our little crowd visited some famous places in Tashkent, where newly weds left flowers and took pictures. Then we went to the apartment of bride’s parents and had feast, which was prepared by her relatives. It means, that this family could not afford restaurant.

Anyway, my present was a flower bouquet and an envelope with money. I could not give her a lot, because I was a student, who was getting little stipend. When later I asked my friend to give me her wedding picture with me in it, she told me how much it will cost me. I did not have the cash, but offered her a book about sex of the same value. Her husband agreed, and I got the picture.

My other, 20 years old, friend got married a different way, more traditional Uzbek-Muslim one. However, it was not arranged. I remember, that bride’s parents weren’t very happy with the fact, that her chosen man did not have a university education like she possessed. However, they later grew more satisfied then he started to take some evening classes at one college. Bride’s parents told her that they can not afford a big wedding, involving a feast in the restaurant, car rides to Tashkent sights and a honeymoon. She had to make a choice. She chose to have a honeymoon. So, mullah, a Muslim priest, was invited to their home. He said a prayer and announced young couple as husband and wife. The bride with covered face was sitting on the carpet besides her groom. The mullah got on the floor also. Mullah did not tell them to kiss each other. The same day, newly weds traveled to another republic to stay at some lake’s resort. I was not invited to this wedding, since guests were not invited. I gave her my gift when she came to visit me after her honeymoon.

One Russian girl I knew fell in love with one Uzbek guy. They started dating. His family was against their relationship, and condemned him. Her mother was not very happy either, but daughter’s happiness was everything. So, Russian family made all the wedding arrangements with financial input of Uzbek groom at one of the biggest restaurants of Tashkent. Their wedding was rich and big. The happy couple went to civil court to register first, then visited famous city sights, then had a party. Groom’s relatives did not come. Newly weds were young, the man was trying to avoid mandatory service in Uzbek army, and rushed with his Russian wife to Moscow to start a new life.

My American wedding was different from Russian or Uzbek tradition. Keith expected me to help him to plan the wedding, to have ideas. Since I did not know much about American wedding traditions, my ideas and imagination were worthless. My family could not help financially or arrive to the wedding. It was impossible to get a visa for my parents or pay for the airplane tickets to the US.

Later, Keith’s cousin married a Japanese lady. She was born in Japan, but lived in the USA for sometime. She knew the language, American wedding traditions already. In this case, they combined American and Japanese wedding traditions. The bride was wearing a white gown; the groom was dressed in Japanese kimono. Groom’s family organized the wedding. Bride’s family arrived, but never asked how they can help out financially as American family expected. This is what I am talking about, do not expect,

DO NOT EXPECT, DO NOT EXPECT, before you find out for sure, what is your future foreign spouse is capable of bringing to the table of your relationship.

Keith's notes from our wrdding

To me, our wedding was one of the happiest and most beautiful days of my life.

Even it was raining. The water was not turned on until the day of the wedding. Even though I spent all of my savings and had to borrow money. Even though my mother and I argued the day before the wedding, and Oksana and I argued the morning of the wedding. Despite these negative things, there were so many positive, good things.
Oksana did not know anything about planning an American wedding. I had to arrange everything. I chose to have the wedding at our new restaurant site. I thought it would be a great way to combine fixing it up to open with my event. Time was critical, as we were planning to open the restaurant in weeks. We had originally planned to already have it open. However, no one was really doing anything, except me.

I later lost over $2000 on this deal, along with some very valuable time. I was promised by T.C. to receive this money before my wedding, but he never paid me. This left me short of funds. I could not afford to do the things I had wanted, and I had no money for a honeymoon. Thank God, some friends and family sent money. Without it, we would have had no honeymoon. The $600 I received in gifts helped us to travel to my uncle’s house in Jacksonville, Florida, and to visit an amusement park in Atlanta. I had to use the other money to pay back my debt.

I was not really able to enjoy myself as much as I wanted. I was so stressed. Oksana had told me she was bringing a wedding dress from her country. Then I found out that she had not. Not only had she not brought a dress, she also had not brought any good clothes or shoes, or anything. She had expected me to buy her all new American things.

I waited to plan the wedding so that Oksana could give her opinions and input. This was a mistake. I found that Oksana was uncaring about any of this. She expected me to magically arrange everything to her dreams. She expected me to use ESP to know what her dreams were. She would answer, “I do not know,” to every question I asked her. I asked her about location, food, decorations, etc. She really had no opinions.

I read of her criticism and broken dreams. I was shocked. I do not think she had a clue of what I had to do. But for me, my wedding was a beautiful day. My friends and family are great.

You can read more about our challenging marriage in Oksana Leslie’s book How to Survive in International Marriage So far, we were married for almost 8 years, lived in 5 states, and have two boys. If you want to get the book fast, order it directly from the publisher Author House. We went through on-demand publishing in 2004. Authorhouse.com You can also buy the book from www.amazon.com: How to Survive in International Marriage Please, feel free to rate and leave feedback on Yahoo Shopping

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