Doug Bair has been looking to get married for the last 10 years but has had no luck, so he has decided to take an unusual route, one heading into Russia.
With his passport and Russian dictionary in hand, Bair, 36, leaves for Moscow Saturday and has every intention of being engaged when he returns a week later.
After seeing a CBS news report about Encounters International, Bair took a trip to Maryland, where the organization is based, to take a look for himself. He liked what he saw and decided that he, too, could find a wife in Russia.
"Being a bachelor is not what it's cracked up to be," the Findlay native said.
Founded by American Berel Spivack and his Russian wife Natasha in 1993, Encounters International is a near foolproof way for an American man to correspond, meet and possibly marry a Russian woman of his choice, a woman who wants more that anything to marry an American and live in the United States.
When becoming a member, a man views photos, video tapes and profiles of woman and then chooses 10 he would like to correspond with. The man's profile and photo are sent to the woman. If the women are interested, they begin corresponding with letters and phone calls.
Encounters International assists in scheduling a trip to Moscow for the man and, if all goes well, a trip for the woman to come to the U.S. If wedding bells are in the future, Encounters International will help with the necessary forms.
Bair, a computer aid designer at Dukes Transportation Services, has been corresponding to women since last Labor Day, but only for the two women he will be meeting during the trip.
There's Elena, Bair's first choice. Trained as a teacher in art, Elena has decided to be an artist herself and sell her work. Bair said Elena speaks decent English and is continually working on it.
"It impresses me that she is so serious about learning the language and being able to communicate here," he said.
Elvira works for a real estate company in Moscow, but does not speak much English. An interpreter helps her communicate by letter with Bair and will probably have to be present when he goes to visit.
Bair said he writes to and receives letters from each woman about once a week. In addition he has talked to Elena several times on the phone.
"I ask a lot more questions than they do," he said. "I try to find out what they like to do, what they know about this country and what they want is a marriage and a husband. " One reason Bair is interested in the two women he has chosen is because they have showed a great deal of interest in him, now corresponding with only him.
"Generally, women don't come up to me and strike up a conversation, so I am flattered that Elena and Elvira decided I was the only one they were interested in," he said.
Although he is having Elena meet him at the airport, which Bair said is a big thing for the women, he is not ruling out Elvira and will be spending time with her.
"I am learning towards Elena but I could have my socks blown off by Elvira. I have told both women about the other and they seem to understand," he said.
So why has Bair decided to take this particular mating route? He said he has had difficulties meeting women, especially a woman with whom he could have a meaningful relationship. He's tried the bar scene and even methods like computer dating, but without any luck.
"It's very difficult once you hit 30 to really find someone that you can get along with very well," he said.
Some of the women he has dated in the past have been divorced, some already with children. Both Elena and Elvira have never been married, a plus according to Bair.
"It seems like many divorced women have been scarred by their divorce and do not trust men," he explained.
Bair would like to have at least three children and would personally prefer if his wife stayed home with the children when they are young. He said in Russia, it is not considered a bad thing for a woman to stay at home and raise the family.
"Here there's an attitude that if you stay at home, you are not successful," he said.
Bair said he would completely support Elena's continuing her art and doing it at home while she took care of their young children.
Bair added that Russian women's expectations are very different that most American women, in that they are not conditioned that you have to look a certain way or dress a certain way.
"Russian women are looking for a good man who is serious about raising a family," he said.
Contrary to the stereotype that all Russian women are short, stout and unattractive, Bair said Russian women are very beautiful and very well educated. One thing that attracted him to Elena was her long hair and slender attractive figure.
While some men take engagement rings with them to Russia, Bair has decided to wait to make sure one of the women is the right one for him, and then he will purchase a ring.
The cost of membership to Encounters International is $1,850 and Bair hopes that it will all be worth it.
"I'm not going through all this for nothing," he said. "Hopefully we will find out we really do find each other to be the one."
As Bair prepares for his trip that could very well change his life, he said he is not at all nervous, but just very excited about the opportunity of possibly meeting Ms. Right.
He hasn't purchased a ring yet, but if all goes well Doug Bair of Findlay, will be a married man by the end of the year.
A few weeks ago, Bair traveled to Moscow to meet two Russian Women whom he could possibly spend the rest of his life with. Last year, Bair became enrolled in Encounters International, an agency based in Maryland, designed to help American men correspond with, meet and possibly marry Russian women.
Bair has been exclusively corresponding by letter, fax and telephone with two women, Elena the artist and Elvira who works in real estate.
After a week in Moscow, Elena, Bair's first choice, is the only woman left in the running. After having spent about four hours with her, Bair said Elvira did not seem very interested.
Upon landing in Moscow and making it through customs, Bair met face to face with Elena, and was not disappointed.
"She was fixed up quite well and was pretty much what I had expected," Bair said. Thing got off on a bit of a rocky start with Elena, 25, due to a misunderstanding. She was under the impression that she would have to decide in one week whether she wanted to marry Bair or not.
"I explained to her that she only had to decide if she wanted to come to America for three months on a fiancee Visa and decide during that time whether or not they would get married. She felt a lot better then," Bair said.
Bair said there were still some up and down times where Elena was not always sure if she wanted to come or not.
As of now, Elena should be coming to the U.S. sometime in September and Bair is looking forward to it, although he is a bit worried that she may decide not stay. "If she does end up coming, I will be doing my best to get her to want to stay. She has a little more doubt that I had expected. She apparently loves it in Moscow, but I tried to tell her how much better it is over here," Bair said.
Elena has met a few Russian women who have lived in the U.S. whom Bair hopes will be a good influence on Elena to assure her that she will enjoy the states.
Bair said he didn't see that there was a whole lot to do in Moscow, especially when it comes to entertainment, which is very limited.
"I guess that's why their national pastime is to drink vodka," he said.
One worry Bair said Elena had was whether or not she would be able to continue her art of making Matrushka dolls in the U.S. While she is limited to selling her work on the street in Moscow, Bair explained to Elena that here she would have a wider array of opportunities to sell her art.
Since returning, Bair wrote Elena a letter asking what she thought about their time together and coming to the U.S. He expects to receive a reply soon.
Although he is not sure what their fate will be, Bair has received some good news. Elena has officially cut off all correspondence with other American men so she is off the Encounters International list.
"That's encouraging," he said. "It's not an easy decision obviously three months to decide her future."
While in Moscow, Bair was housed in a two room flat with a hostess named Inna looking after him. He said the flat was very small, with no hot water.
Bair was amazed at the very different lifestyle in Russia that in the U.S. and said it seemed as if the country was 30 to 40 years behind.
"It was like going back in time," he said.
In addition, Bair found it interesting that the Russians still see to be adjusting to a capitalist society.
"They're just not used to it, " he said." I think they are still under the impression that they will get paid no matter what."
Bair enjoyed his visit to Russian as far as meeting and getting to know Elena, but he said he would never want to live or spend too much time there.
"It was a tough week as far as vacations go," he said.