::: The Woman Of Your Dreams Just May have a Russian Accent :::

Encounters International 10th Anniversary

November 29, 2003

View our clients' coverage of EI 10th Anniversary Party.



Ten Years in the Life of Encounters International


This was our inaugural year. Encounters International was the first personalized international matchmaking service focused on Russian women and American men. We had two full-time offices in Moscow, Russia and Bethesda, Maryland.

In those days, all communication was by international post mail - there was no lightning quick Internet. Contacts and responses were measured in weeks and months. We have addressed this major problem from the start.

We began using facsimile (fax) machines to cut the communication time substantially. Encounters International ventured into new territory by providing a response time guarantee. We guaranteed a ten-day response time to letters sent to Russian ladies. This was possible because of the speed of the fax and because we had full-time office managers in Moscow and Bethesda who handled all the communication.

We watched our clients exchanging multiple letters and traveling to Moscow while others buying addresses from mail order catalogs were still waiting for the first response. Within a few months, we had three engaged couples. They began working on the K-1 Fiancée process. We began helping them along this process as well.


This year, we began getting a lot of media attention. Russia, now free from Communism, was a new and interesting place for the Americans to see. Likewise, a real and open look at America was refreshing for Russians. Our first married couple Anastasia and Chris Ihlenfeld were featured in a Washington Post article. American television picked up the story. Soon, the BBC in London was on board. It did not take long for the newly 'free' Russian media to start talking about Encounters International.

Entrepreneurs from the former Soviet-era states came from under every rock seeking to team up with us. We decided to accept only one such offer in Tallinn, Estonia - our second overseas office.

"Why not have an open house?" Someone suggested that we should get our clients together for a special event. First, we had to find out what an 'open house' was! After some research and a lot of help from a small client base in the local area, we had the first annual Encounters International Open House. We had no idea how popular this event would become. How could we envision this first event becoming the centerpiece of the ten year anniversary celebration?


Once again, Encounters International broke new ground by offering a one-year guarantee of success. After only two years in existence, we were confident that our clients could begin the communications process and become engaged in twelve months - after all, the rate was already at about 95%. We decided to put a money back success guarantee in writing. We were confident in our desire for success. We wanted our clients to be equally as confident in their own success and in Encounters International.



We became focused in two areas. First, we leveraged the benefits of the emerging Internet communications tools. However, it was imperative to maintain our reputation as a personalized service. Faster communications without our matchmaking expertise was not acceptable.

Technology alone was not enough. Many of our clients came to us from other agencies that offered speedy communications services and nothing else. Unfortunately, some found out that speedy communications simply meant overseas scams could happen faster.

Encounters International remained involved in the counseling part of our clients' successes. Although we began using e-mail based communications, we were still there to help with introductions and cultural issues.


Encounters International opened our Kiev, Ukraine office. Ukraine and Ukrainian ladies are the second largest group of the population in the former Soviet Union. The time has come to start representing them in our database. We also decided to close the Tallinn, Estonia office. 12 married couples with 5 children born became a tangible result of that period.

The communications between the managers in Kiev and Moscow made it possible for our clients to visit both cities in a single trip. This strategic move improved the choices and, thus, success rate of our clients. We became the first agency with full-time offices in Kiev and Moscow.


Our annual Open House event continued to grow in popularity. This year, we featured a wedding. Elena Kobiakova from Kiev and Norman May from Virginia tied the knot during this year's spectacular event. Each year, we saw more married and engaged couples, as well as, single clients, prospective members and marriage-minded ladies attend the Open House. Also, it became obvious that a once-a-year gathering could no longer satisfy our clients' desire to meet more frequently.

So, we launched the Saturday Club Socials as an answer to numerous requests for monthly events! Our goal was to provide a safe, convenient and frequent gathering spot for everyone involved with Encounters International. With a continuously growing number of local single Russian ladies, the Saturday Club Socials provided a means for American men to meet them without traveling outside the country.



We found that some prospective clients wanted to have a look at the inner workings of Encounters International before committing to the program full time. We needed to balance the needs to these men along with the serious nature of the women already in the program. We did not want to expose our ladies to less serious so-called 'window shoppers.'

Therefore, we developed the Encounters International 'Get To Know Us' membership plan. It was specifically designed for those prospects that thought we and our ladies were too good to be true. One-third of the 'Get To Know Us' members actually become full time members. The other two-thirds have decided to decline the invitation for membership. The 'Get To Know Us' membership plan has become a good method of sorting casual prospects from serious potential clients.


'Y2K' brought together the largest gathering in the history of our 'Family of Clients.' This year we grew so much that it became possible to arrange a social event far away from Encounters international headquarters in Maryland. We were off to Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the Encounters International Millennium Celebration! The lights stayed on and the computers kept running.

Also, the romance continued for those who came from across the United Sates. We had numerous states represented by married couples and single men and ladies alike. It was a 'magical' time for us all.



Tragedy struck in the form of a fire at the home-based office here in Bethesda. Natasha was injured in the blaze. It was an uncertain time of what to do. It had been a good run; was it time to curtail or even quit our activities? We conferred with our local clients.

The response from the 'Family of Clients' was a firm; "Oh, hell no!" Our clients had watched and participated with us in building an international matchmaking success model. They came to our aide in many forms.

We received almost every kind of offer to help that could have been imagined. Saturday Club Socials continued at the homes of our clients. Clients turned out to be the perfect hosts for these monthly events, moreover, they enjoyed this new role.

The fire disaster turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We confirmed that the concept of 'Family of Clients' was real. It was not a cute marketing phrase. It was (and is) a way of life and bonding at Encounters International.


Once again, we accomplished a strategic expansion overseas. Encounters International opened our third office in Yaroslavl, Russia. Moscow and Kiev were considered to be too large for some of our clients. They desired to find a lady from a smaller town, much like where they lived. This wisdom inspired to opening of the outlying Yaroslavl agency office.



We have launched a new online password protected database designed for the ladies to view EI clients . This new feature has encouraged more ladies inside the USA to join Encounters International.

Wow! Has it been ten years already? Perhaps the best way to cover 2003 is to provide some success statistics.

  • Years in Business: 10
  • Ladies Active in Database: 420
  • Ladies residing in the USA: 72
  • Total Married Couples: 246
  • Total Engaged Couples: 23
  • Total Divorced Couples: 33
  • Moscow Married Couples: 146
  • Moscow Engaged Couples: 10
  • Kiev Married Couples: 61
  • Kiev Engaged Couples: 4
  • USA (locally) Married Couples: 24
  • USA (locally) Engaged Couples: 2
  • Yaroslavl Married Couples: 2
  • Yaroslavl Engaged Couples: 7
  • Tallinn Married Couples: 12
  • Total Children Born: 81


EI 10th Anniversary Celebration was truly a reunion of a big family, a party made by the clients for the clients and enjoyed by the clients. Indeed, I felt that I was blessed to have all of you, my wonderful clients-friends around me. You applied the warmth of your hearts and the vigor of your spirit to make this party a success.

The party was a success because of you, my wonderful team of performers in the talent show. My neighbors became accustomed to hear the tunes of Matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof musical during our month long rehearsals. Tarlana playing the violin, Natasha accompanying her on piano and Aida singing with her sexy voice "Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch" almost draw a crowd of people under the windows of my office during these rehearsals. Barry, the Baltimore Opera orchestra bassoon player traveled many miles just to join the rest of the performers during the rehearsals. The spirit of camaraderie was so overwhelming that a new member Charles, who joined EI one week before the Anniversary offered his home equipped with 26 musical instruments for the general rehearsal. Anna, who came to the general rehearsal as a singer unexpectedly revealed her extraordinary talent as a Master of Ceremony. Galina dressed in a traditional Ukrainian costume performed a dance under the tunes of a famous old folk song "Along Peterskaya Street walks a beautiful girl" while Olga dressed as a Gipsy made quite a spectacle dancing together with Charles dressed in a kilt. Yet Kristina deserves the biggest applause. For the whole month she was rehearsing her exotic Arabic belly dance, but she broke her toe just a short time before the performance. In a heroic effort to save her show she came out to the stage and decided to dance even if the ambulance would have been needed after the performance.

Needless to say, that the talent show exceeded all expectations. The second part of the show was especially touching. First, there came forward a little girl Victoria, a 7 year old daughter of EI couple Sean and Natasha Dunlap. She took the floor and sang a song My Country. It was very touching to hear her singing about her grand fathers dying for this land and her happiness in this land. This patriotic theme was picked up by John Goping who sang a very popular Russian "long distance love" song from the time of World War II. John who managed to learn Russian in order to find the true love in Russia and succeeded in it, performed the song in Russian without any accent. The Russian part of the audience-- our beautiful ladies -- sang along with him. When he finished he was rewarded with a storm of applause.

In the great finale of the talent show the audience joined the performers in singing Moscow Nights and America the Beautiful expressing the appreciation of two countries and two cultures that became a part of all of us and our children.

The BBC Current Affairs documentary crew came from London to document our 10th Anniversary. In addition to their filming the entire talent show they asked many of you to give interviews on camera. I appreciate your willingness to state on camera -- for the entire world to hear -- how proud you are to be members of Encounters International and how happy you are with the choices you have made. The BBC 30 min program on World Weddings is scheduled to be broadcast in March, first, in Great Britain, and after that on the BBC World Network.

The format of this page does not allow me to name dozens and dozens other Encounters International members who worked behind the scene to contributed to the success of the Anniversary. All I know is that the success of this big event would not have been possible without all of you.

3933838 visitors since 07/01/98.



Encounters International © 2004 | disclaimer