The story of Oksana and I begins like this...
I received an envelope at home in Boston with Marianna's catalog. I looked at it at first and just saw dozens of women's faces on a brochure. I wasn't thinking about it too much and I thought I would throw it away. But then my eyes caught sight of a fair-complexioned woman with beautiful dark hair and green eyes. She looked like a very sincere woman who was naturally beautiful, she didn't wear a lot of make up, or fancy clothing.
So I went to "Marianna's" website and I did a search for her number and her information, I learned more about her, and the fact that she was a single parent and had a nice 5 year old boy. Well, I like children and I'd like to have a child, and I liked everything Oksana had said about herself and her goals in life etc. So, I started writing to Oksana, once a week. It wasn't expensive, $40 a letter, and it was really easy to write a letter, and send it through the website.
Oksana and I sent letters back and forth for about 4-5 months, we talked about our families, jobs, outlooks on life and family, and our future aspirations. It was pretty obvious that we had a lot of common interests, and we exchanged pictures so we knew what each other looked like. Finally, after a little encouragement from family and friends I signed up for a "tour" through the agency to go and visit Oksana.
It looked like a good deal for me. The $3,500 covered bed and breakfast for the week, the services of a driver and a translator during the day, and it also covered help in completely filling all the paperwork if Oksana and I hit it off, (I thought we would) and at the end of the week wanted to fill out all the paperwork involved to obtain a fiancйe visa so Oksana and her son could eventually come over to the US.
The trip began in late March, and I flew out of Kennedy airport to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. I had never been on Lufthansa before and I was really impressed with the airline. We saw a first rate film with Nicholas Cage on the way over, and the food and service was excellent, we even were served Beck's beer on the plane, and fine German cheeses, and food. I then picked up another Lufthansa flight to Poland, and then it was onto Lviv on a Polish airline flight, which was a good flight as well.
The Lviv airport was clean and well maintained. The agency said that sometimes there can be a delay in customs, but I had no delay at all. In fact, I met some Americans on the flight over and we were all surprised how easy it was to get through customs, etc. I came through the gates after customs and a man came up to me and introduced himself, it was Vadim, the manager of the agency's operations in Chernovtsy. He was accompanied by one of the translators at the agency. We then drove in a comfortable Ford Aerostar van through Lviv, which is a fairly modern city, with interesting avenues and buildings.
The ride down to Chernovtsy took about four hours or so, we traveled through some beautiful rolling farmland. It was easy to see why people considered the Ukraine "the breadbasket of the former Soviet Union". Everywhere there were people out planting potatoes, it was an impressive sight. We arrived in Chernovtsy and nightfall and Vadim dropped me off at the bed and breakfast where I would be staying. Natasha ran the bed and breakfast with her daughter, Irina. The house was absolutely beautiful, with tile floors all around, high ceilings, and nice balconies on each floor which overlooked the city.
That first night, because of the time differences etc, I slept like a log. In the morning I came downstairs and Natasha had a huge breakfast laid out on the table before me. I can honestly say, I have been to Brunch at the Boston Marriott, and the food and display of food at the Marriott was not as impressive as the breakfasts that were prepared for me each morning by Natasha. There was different types of breads and cheeses, a large container of fresh orange juice, fresh coffee, poached eggs, and a delicious dish made of flattened and lightly breaded pork. We even had fish on one of the mornings, and I was surprised to find that even fish can be good for breakfast !...
That first day I drove to the Agency's office with Vadim and translator , they explained to me the schedule for the day, and that Oksana would be meeting me in the office later in the afternoon. The agency is very organized, each day when I was picked up I was given a choice of things to do, a plan was made for events etc. On that first day I was little nervous and Oksana was a little nervous when we first met, but we sat together and had some nice warm tea we chatted and then were driven around the city, while we talked a bit and got to know each other better. By the end of the day, we were fine with each other.
The following day, I was driven out to have dinner with Oksana's family. She lived in a pretty region just above the riverbank. I met Oksana's mother and Oksana's son Sergey, and we all sat down and had a delicious Ukrainian meal, the main course was Red Borchst, a vegetable soup served with a sour cream topping. We also had a good deal of homemade cherry wine, which was delicious !!! Apparently, it is a Ukrainian tradition that when you first meet a woman's mother you have to bring her a cake. This was a comical event, because I didn't know where to get a cake from Sergey, our translator for the week, took me to a street vendor where we bought a beautiful cake for about 7 Ukrainian dollars, or two dollars US.
The next day we had a nice romantic walk through a nice park, and that evening we went to the philharmonic, which was really terrific. The following evening we attended a play at an old Austrian built theater. Oksana and I sat in a luxury box, which I have never even done in the US.
It was a lot of fun, and we laughed when we heard the title of the play "Somebody Help me, I am Getting Married !".
As we spent the week together, I knew without any reservations that Oksana and I were a good match. I asked Vadim if they knew of a jewelry store where I could get a "promise" type ring as opposed to a full blown engagement ring (I thought she could pick this out for herself
at some later date) Sure enough they knew of a state owned jewelry store where I was able to select a nice ring.
That night we went to a really classy restaurant and I asked Oksana if she would marry me, she said yes. The funny thing is she wasn't really nervous, but our translator, and I certainly were !!!!... We ate at some really nice restaurants and pubs and every was very inexpensive..
For instance the night I proposed the three of us had a four course meal with different glassed of wine and beer, and desserts, and the total was about $20.00 for the whole meal. I couldn't believe it. I ate very well in the Ukraine and I loved the Ukrainian beer, but it is important to note
that Ukrainian beer is stronger than US domestic beer.
My stay in Chernovtsy was totally "hassle free". The agency always had ideas for interesting things to do, museums, shops, restaurants, theater, philharmonic, beautiful parks to walk in, etc. At the end of each day, we had our interpreter, accompany us when we went out. He can get you tickets to different events, he will find the best places to exchange your US dollars into Ukrainian, he will advise you on local customs, give you a history of Chernovtsy, etc. He or she will basically be your travel agent. I made sure I gave the interpreter a good tip at the end of the week, because he really did a lot for us, above and beyond interpreting.
My trip to Chernovtsy was a terrific time, and obviously a romantic one as well. I think you have to go after the things you want in life, no matter how far or wide you must travel. My trip to the Ukraine was not difficult at all, and I would go again if I had the time. I have been to London, Ireland, and Canada, and I had never done so many interesting things in these places as I have in the Ukraine.
Oksana is now taking English classes which are offered by the agency. The agency's translators, are actually individuals with University degrees in teaching English. All of our paperwork is now being processed and we will have to wait about three months or so until Oksana will have an appointment in Warsaw for the Fiancйe Visa.
The tour of Chernovtsy with Marianna's Agency is definitely a good value. Even if I hadn't met the "love of my life" I would still be satisfied, but it so happens that I DID !!! So as you can imagine I am even happier than I can explain in words with the Service provided by Marianna's