It’s not about the money, it’s about partnership, writes Tetiana Vorozhko.
I am a Ukrainian woman in a happy marriage with a U.S. citizen. Our story is a part of a modern trend. Many of the girlfriends I used to hang around with in Kyiv, as well as my own sister, are now raising children in Warsaw, Munich, London, Toronto, Denver, Oklahoma City and Los Angeles; our friends in the Washington, D.C., area are mostly mixed couples of Ukrainian women married to American men.
Why is that?
The reasons are plenty. In many comments to Alina Rudya’s article [The People of Ukraine: Part 2 -- Women, Kyiv Post, March 12], both Ukrainian and Western men blame Slavic beauties for chasing the money. OK. Who doesn’t? Everybody wants better lives for themselves and their offspring. Let’s be honest. That includes the ability to buy better things and do more exciting stuff.
All women around the world prefer men who make more money, the same as our ancestors preferred Stone Age hunters who could kill more game to feed their families. Even if a girl in love marries a poor guy, she still sees some potential in him. Nobody goes into a lifelong union determined to stay poor forever.
Of course, there are gold diggers. Anna Nicole Smith, who married a Texas billionaire more than twice her age, probably has no Ukrainian blood. If you see an old rich guy marrying a beautiful woman 30 years younger, I would be cautious about believing that she is smitten by his personality, no matter her nationality.
All of the pairings between Ukrainian women and U.S. and European men that we know, including ourselves, developed their relationships typically: Sexual attraction, passion, love, doubts, periods of separation, deep friendship, etc. However, I also believe that there is something special that clicks in these relationships. It is vague and hard to measure. But it is definitely there.
First, I think that it is more acceptable for women to marry abroad than for men, the same way as our grandmothers married fellows and moved to other villages. When I studied at a U.S. university, I could see that girls from the former Soviet Union tended to pick up local trends much more easily than their male counterparts.
Second, modern Ukrainian society is a little weird when it comes to gender relations. There are traditional societies where women are less educated than men, do not make decisions regarding their own lives, seldom work outside the house, have many children and, as a result, are completely dependent on men. Somebody might insist that they are still treated with respect, but I say that they can be treated any way the men want. There are also Western societies where women are educated, have careers, make decisions regarding their own lives and tend to have fewer children. Women in those societies generally demand respect and equal treatment and normally get it.
The former Soviet Union countries fall somewhere in between. Our women do everything (and more) that Western women do, but often get the treatment like in traditional societies.
One good indicator of respect is how housework is shared. When I was in my mid-20s, I was living with a man in Kyiv for about a year. I was more advanced in my career, worked longer hours, made more money and financially contributed more to our household. At the same time, I was doing all the chores by myself. After we broke up, older women criticized me for letting this young man go. Because he didn’t drink, didn’t beat me and didn’t screw around, that was supposed to be good enough for me.
None of the factors is biological. They’re all cultural. I know many Ukrainian immigrants who have equal relations in their marriage with shared responsibilities and respect, the same as I have in my marriage. There are many “modern families” between Ukrainians in Ukraine, but often these men in those families studied or lived abroad.
Third, there are simply not so many husband-quality men in Ukraine. There are more men in prisons or who are drug addicts and heavy drinkers. The economic problems in Ukraine make many men poor. It is more acceptable for men to marry down in terms of career and education.
As a result, well-educated and beautiful women who have their own careers are the most likely to end up single. Because those women spent time building their careers, they did not marry early, and by the age of 25, their chance of finding a decent match in Ukraine becomes slim. I have so many girlfriends of this description in their early 30s that it breaks my heart!
Fourth, as soon as men in Ukraine earn some decent money, having a lover becomes a status thing, next to having a flashy car, out-of-town house and vacations abroad. Of course, Western men also cheat, but it is not as widespread or as accepted.
At the end, it all comes down to children. When I was in my relationship in Kyiv, I wondered: If we have a child, how would it all work? Would I still have to do everything at home, earn money and take care of the child? How much help from him can I count on? What kind of an example would he would set for the child? Would he be able to provide for the family if I couldn’t work?
Now I do have a beautiful baby boy. My husband and I are working, busy and somewhat exhausted. But we work as a team. If I happen to lose a job, he would be able to support the three of us, and vice versa. Marriage is a partnership and everybody wants a reliable partner. This is not about chasing money. This is pursuit of happiness.
Tetiana Vorozhko, a native Ukrainian married to a U.S. citizen, lives in Vienna, Virginia. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio University.