Crimea I – Marriage agency

Posted on 17/12/2011


Annual pageant, Chernigov city, northern Ukraine


I’m heading to Crimea for a couple of days. Into the coupé compartment bustles a sturdy 40-something shrouded in a garlicky aroma and dressed in skintight leggings, her hair pulled back pragmatically into a pony-tail. Her eyes immediately light onto mine.

“How old are you?”


“You’re not married.”


“D’ya like our girls? I bet you do, don’t you! Everyone likes our girls!”

Well, I…

“I ask because marriage is my business. I run an agency. Where are you from?”


“Oh. I’ve been all over Europe. I’ve been everywhere except to your England, so I can’t talk about that, although one of my clients married an Englishman. She’s a doctor. He has a garage I think. Which countries do you like? My favourite is Switzerland. Have you been to Germany? I really don’t like it. It’s not that they’re bad people, but they’re just not good people! I have a girlfriend, I helped her find a German husband, after 3 months she was already back in Ukraine!”

Where are you going?


For business?

“No, to visit a friend. But I’ll probably do some work too! It’s the city of brides. Ten women to every man!”

Sounds like paradise.

“It’s like Switzerland.”

How do you mean?

“Sevastopol has that Swiss atmosphere!”

It’s a port.

“Yes, but there are mountains!”

A third passenger arrives, a natural blonde in her mid-thirties with Nordic features.

The marriage agency director turns her attention to the blonde, who is on the phone.

“Would you like some sausage?”

But the blonde turns up her nose at the sausage, and says in a loud voice that something reeks of garlic before returning to her phone conversation.

“Yes sweetie. Are you smoking? No? Good boy. I’ll bring you a small present then. Just a small one. OK, see you tomorrow.”

After she puts down the phone, the marriage agency director and I resume our conversation.

So are all the men old?

“Not always. Sometimes the age difference is only ten years, or none at all. Some go for the ones in their 70s. You know what they’re hoping, that he’ll pop off soon!”

The blonde seems to be listening.

Later, after the lights are out, a pair of foreign tourists have a very loud and boring conversation about forensic practice with a Ukrainian woman in the corridor.

After much huffing and puffing, the blonde gets up and leans out in her pyjamas.

“Excuse me but you’re really disturbing us. Could you not take your conversation into the compartment? Sorry!”

Despite her unusually polite request, the conversation continues.

“If they were German I would have told them off myself!” says the marriage agent.

In the morning, the two men are back in the corridor. One sits reading a book on a fold-down seat. I notice he has no left hand.

I return to my top bunk and lie listening to the conversation between the two women.

“You know, people get married for different reasons,” says the blonde. “Can anyone register at your agency?”

“We only take unmarried girls. There are agencies where you can sign up if you’re still married, but..”

“So you only take people if they’re officially divorced?”

“You can still talk to us and see.” says the director helpfully.

“There’s no harm in knowing what’s out there!” The blonde smiles, and takes the marriage agency director’s details.

The train pulls in at Simferopol, and the blonde and I get off. I go down the steps onto the platform before her, and turn to offer to help her with her bag. But a big arm reaches past me.

“Hi Sweetie!” she says. As they kiss, she looks genuinely pleased to see her husband.

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