My Mother Was a Mail-Order Bride

People often ask me how I came to the United States. Sometimes they give me an unpleasant smirk, wink at Beaker, my American husband, and say nothing but imply a lot. Sometimes they go as far as measure me up and down, and blatantly ask me if I was a mail-order bride. In response, I always force myself to smile and politely say that no, I was not a mail-order bride. Most of the time I suppress a really strong urge to say something mean and nasty.

But I am a polite person, generally, and I keep my mouth shut. When I tell people that I was not a mail-order bride, I am not lying. However, I never tell anyone that they almost guessed it, and that they missed by one generation: my mother was a mail-order bride, not me.

When I asked my mom if she was going to be uncomfortable with me writing about it on my blog, she thought about it for a split second, and said that she would be fine. With her permission, I proceed.

Background

A mail-order bride is a label that applies to women who publish their intent to marry a man from another, financially more developed, country. They list themselves in a catalogue that looks like any other catalogue featuring clothes, shoes or appliances. The only difference is that a mail-order bride catalogue features women, their photos, their short biographies and hobbies.

In those catalogues women are being marketed as a commodity. It sounds awful, but it is true. Everyone involved – the agency offering the service, brides-to-be and men – fully realize that women are seeking marriages as an economic arrangement.

However, I should add that all these women do hope to meet their own Price Charming. It is our human nature to believe that true love exists, and one day a Prince Charming will sail into our lives and sweep us off our feet. For some it works out. For some it never does. But the hope is always there.

This is an actual (unedited) ad that I found on a Russian mail-order bride website:

“I am looking for a serious relationship. I appreciate in men: a good sense of humor, kind eyes, intelligence, ambition. There are three things that will never come back: time, word, ability. Therefore: do not waste your time. Choose word… and do not miss the opportunity. I am looking for a beautiful relationship based on trust, respect and understanding.”

The mail-order bride practices are not limited to the third-world where people live in villages, and where arranged marriage deals are struck while arguing over cattle. We lived in the capital of Lithuania, in the big city with a great cultural life filled with museums, libraries and theatres.

People take drastic measures in difficult financial situations. Let’s face it, some marriages are made out of financial and economic considerations, and are not driven by love. Life can become very complicated when you find yourself without money, without a future and without means of support. One might hold on tight to the idea of a marriage as an economic arrangement, especially if the one is drowning.

In 1992 my mother signed up with a mail-order bride agency. She was in desperate need of a change. She was a single mother raising a daughter, struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck. She did not do it secretly, hiding her intentions from her family. We all knew about it. In fact, it was my grandfather, my mother’s father, who found the mail-order bride agency and suggested to try it out.

Why We Did It

Some people view mail-order brides as a form of international prostitution because there is a trade involved: women offer their love, care and their bodies in exchange for a comfortable life overseas. Fairy tales do happen, but statistically it is a very rare outcome.

A majority of people who like to judge, lose grip on reality as they do not understand that there are a lot of risks involved. A woman can get herself into sex slavery. She can be abused and eventually killed. She can be downgraded to cheap labor with no means of support, and all her connections to the outside world can be severed.

Men in the position of power can manipulate what they cannot dominate, and belittle what they cannot understand.

In 1992 our financial situation was pretty grim. My mother was a teacher, and we lived on a very small teacher’s salary. The Soviet Union was gone, and the new capitalism exploring country was raising prices on everything. It seemed like we had to pay for the very air we were breathing, as well as the water we were drinking.

We were living from paycheck to paycheck, struggling to buy meat and sometimes even bread. The worst part was that we could not pay for our apartment. The prices for utilities such as water, gas and heating were extremely high. We were on a brink of losing our home.

I could not work because I was a full-time student. Back then students could not work and attend school at the same time. My family insisted I continued my education in spite of our constant shortage of money. My student stipend helped us a little, but it never made a big difference in our financial situation.

My grandfather, who was retired and lived entirely on his pension, helped us as much as he could. But no matter what we did, we never had enough money. We knew cold and hunger quite intimately.

One day, instead of waiting around to accept fate, my grandfather decided to take it into his own hands. He suggested to his daughter, my mother, to try a mail-order bride agency. My mother hesitated for a few days, but finally she agreed. She decided she had nothing to lose.

There was something powerful and brave about her decision. Of course, she was afraid, and not sure if she was doing the right thing. But when money is short, food is in scarce supply, and the threat of losing the roof over your head is growing stronger every day, people tend to take extraordinary and desperate measures.

To Be Continued. (Part II is here)

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79 Responses to “My Mother Was a Mail-Order Bride”

  1. Michelle says:

    Very interesting! I can’t believe people ask you that because that seems personal. Thanks for sharing your story. Interested to hear the rest.
    Michelle recently posted..Spending, Life, Income and Food Updates… 3/19/2012My Profile

  2. Daisy says:

    Wow that’s so interesting! I can’t wait for the second part. Also.. you’re TOO polite. If somebody says that to you, I wouldn’t blame you for punching them. Lol.
    Daisy recently posted..Birth Order and Finances: My TakeMy Profile

  3. Bonnie says:

    Next time someone asks you that, smash them in the face! Cheeky f&*kers (excuse my language).

    Really interesting story, I am intrigued to learn more in the next part – when is it?!
    Bonnie recently posted..Low Rate Ethical Credit CardsMy Profile

  4. This is very interesting to me because I haven’t heard many stories from people who are so close to this. I can’t wait for part 2!
    Bryan at Pinch that Penny! recently posted..People with Both 401(k) and IRA Save the MostMy Profile

  5. I can’t wait to read Part 2. I’m sure the decision could not have been easy for your mother, but marriage has been an economic transaction for centuries! It is truly only a modern, Western cultural idea that marriage is about love.
    Kris @ BalancingMoneyandLife recently posted..An “Emergency” Car Repair – Is Basic Maintenance, Not An EmergencyMy Profile

    • Aloysa says:

      It was a very difficult decision for my mom. But when she decided to do, she wasn’t determined to go out and marry a stranger. She wanted to try it out and see what happens. :)

  6. Mackenzie says:

    This is such an interesting story! Wow, I cannot wait to read part 2!!!
    Mackenzie recently posted..Project Simplify: Week Two Wrap UpMy Profile

  7. Kathryn says:

    Shedding light on a personal situation isn’t always comfortable, but I for one, appreciate your honesty, and your Mother’s willingness to share! Looking forward to Part 2! Excellent writing.

  8. jefferson says:

    Oh jeez, Aloysa.. You are going to leave us hanging like that? :-)
    Fascinating story.. I can’t wait to hear the rest.

    I am all for people who haven’t been dealt a fair hand, taking chances to try and create a better life for them and their families. It sounds like that is what your mom and grandfather decided to do. It had to be truly frightening at the time to jump into the complete unknown like that.. How could you know what kind of man was waiting for you on the other side?

  9. wow what a fascinating story! I can’t wait to read the rest!
    Newlyweds on a Budget recently posted..10-Pound Challenge: Week 8My Profile

  10. You are such a good writer!

    I love following your personal stories about Lithuania because that is where my mother was from.

    Looking forward to hearing the rest of your story.

  11. I’m with Jefferson. I just got into my sandwich and was scrolling down as I mindlessly read and ate and WHAM, we have to wait for part 2. Man! This is such an interesting read. I’m always fascinated by the similarities of different cultures and how strong women have to be for themselves and their children. I’m waiting for part 2 earnestly!
    Sandy – yesiamcheap recently posted..Best of Money Carnival #147: I Totally Forgot To Do This EditionMy Profile

  12. That’s a fascinating story. Eagerly waiting or Part 2.
    Tushar@EverythingFinance recently posted..Questions on the 2012 JOBS bill to ease capital raisingMy Profile

  13. Peter says:

    Great post and spellbinding story – can’t wait for the next part!
    Peter recently posted..Using A Roth IRA For Higher Education ExpensesMy Profile

  14. I have a friend whose wife is a russian mail-order bride. And I have to say that it worked out perfectly for them: they make a terrific couple!

    Thanks for sharing your story!
    Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple recently posted..Case Study: The Little Flood HouseMy Profile

  15. Bridget says:

    wow! So interesting I can’t wait to hear the rest.

    I think it’s cruel and ignorant for people to make negative judgements about you or your mother like that. Anyone that has even a vague understanding of hardship or even a shred of human compassion understands that people do the things they need to do to survive and secure a better life. No one would make such risky choices if there were other options.
    Bridget recently posted..Cash burns a hole in my pocketMy Profile

    • Aloysa says:

      You captured it very well. But people do tend to judge. Mostly because they don’t understand something. Then they twist it.

  16. Like everyone else, I can’t wait to read part 2. Your backstory is so completely engaging and amazing.
    Jana @ Daily Money Shot recently posted..My favorite iPhone appsMy Profile

  17. wow, fascinating! your story is really interesting.
    frugalportland recently posted..Five ways to get me to unsubscribe from your blogMy Profile

  18. Wow, that’s pretty crazy. I hope this story turns out well…
    Come to think of it, it’s not much different from online dating right? You put up your profile and see if you can find a good match. The woman doesn’t have to say yes to just anyone. She can pick right?
    Joe @ Retire By 40 recently posted..P2P Lending For Extra Retirement IncomeMy Profile

    • Aloysa says:

      True, you do get to choose. However, some women are not very picky. Also, dangers that mail-order brides encounter are much worse than those women who use on-line dating sites.

  19. Michelle says:

    It makes sense why you are so involved in finances today. You have an incredible story and I can’t wait to read the rest. I am so sorry for anyone that has ever judged you or your mom for this decision.
    Michelle recently posted..I’m A Barbie GirlMy Profile

  20. eemusings says:

    Riveting! Can’t wait to hear more. BTW, your feed has suddenly gone to partial RSS only. Boo. Is this deliberate?
    eemusings recently posted..Link love (Powered by bay runs and afternoon tea)My Profile

    • Aloysa says:

      Noooo, it is not deliberate. Apparently Feedburner cannot validate my feed. I am working on it, but it takes time. I hate partial feeds myself and I never read them. I hope I can fix it soon! :)

  21. Dannielle @ Odd Cents says:

    I can’t believe someone asked you if you were a mail-order bride. Kudos to you for keeping the peace. Can’t wait to read Part 2.
    Dannielle @ Odd Cents recently posted..Comment on Weekly Report – 18 March 2012 by DannielleMy Profile

  22. Squeezer says:

    I can’t wait to hear the 2nd half of the story, especially if your mother is happily married to the man of hear dreams, or if things did not work out as expected.
    Squeezer recently posted..Weekend links for 03/18/2012My Profile

  23. CultOfMoney says:

    Maybe you should try writing a suspense novel, you seem to have the hang of things pretty well. :) This is a great story that you’re telling, and obviously quite personal with it being your mom. Thanks for sharing!
    CultOfMoney recently posted..The only 3 ways to get a sweet-ass government jobMy Profile

  24. Money Infant says:

    I can’t wait for the next part of the story because I am very close to this scenario, being the male part. I didn’t meet my wife through mail order, but I did meet her on an internet dating site which truth be told is not much different. In fact, what used to be the largest Russian mail catalog is now the largest Russian dating site. So even though things change with technology they also stay the same.

    Great story and great use of the dramatic pause!
    Money Infant recently posted..Getting Back on Track After a Financial Train WreckMy Profile

  25. Wow. I can’t form a proper sentence right now. That’s an amazing story.
    Marissa @ Thirty Six Months recently posted..Carnival of Personal Finance – Ted Talks EditionMy Profile

  26. Good Cents Savings says:

    Wow – what an amazing story! I can’t wait to hear what comes next.
    Good Cents Savings recently posted..How To Turn “I Want To Save Money” Into “I AM Saving Money.”My Profile

  27. Wow that is powerful….cmon…stop responding to comments and go back and finish the story. I am dying to know the rest!!! chop chop…lol you can verbally punch me if you would like… :-)
    Christopher @ This That and The MBA recently posted..Move over King there is a new girl in town and her name is Wendy!My Profile

    • Aloysa says:

      It is coming out tomorrow! It is almost here.

      I have to respond to comments. I am trying to be a good blogger. :)

  28. Masha says:

    Interesting story. I write for a Russian dating blog so I’m eager to read the rest!

    • Aloysa says:

      Masha, I tried to follow your link and it did not take me to any site. Is your link correct? Just curious to see what kind of blog you guys have.

  29. Rachel says:

    Kudos to you on self-control. Pretty sure I would have at least glared a hole through their forhead. Now chop chop on finishing this story. I’m fascinated.
    Rachel recently posted..Deadly Fall by Ann BruceMy Profile

  30. [...] This is Part II of My Mother Was a Mail-Order Bride.  [...]

  31. Hope to meet you and measure up at FinCon ;) jokes apart, very sensitive post. You have guts!
    SB @ One Cent At A Time recently posted..Will Increasing Retirement age for Social Security Hurt Seniors?My Profile

  32. [...] presents My Mother Was a Mail-Order Bride posted at My Broken Coin, saying, “People often ask me how I came to the United States. [...]

  33. Analytical Planner says:

    Interesting story. My husband was in the military when I met him. I lived in Los Angeles and he lived in San Diego. After we married I have been asked many times if I married for a green card. People have no boundaries! Just because my husband and I are really different doesn’t give people permission to ask dumb questions.
    Analytical Planner recently posted..Job Search Week 3 & 4: Spring Break and Updating ResumeMy Profile

  34. [...] from Lithuania.  It really is an amazing story and you should absolutely go read it immediately: PART 1 and PART 2.   Why are you still here?  Go read [...]

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  39. Lisa @ Cents To Save says:

    I am loving this! On my way to read the rest of the series.
    Love the new look of your blog too!
    Lisa @ Cents To Save recently posted..Friday’s List of Things and Getting Back to NormalMy Profile

  40. [...] presents My Mother Was a Mail-Order Bride posted at My Broken Coin. Though not exactly about frugality, this first in a three-part series [...]

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  42. Karunesh @ chase-a-dream.com says:

    That is a very touching story. It seems real. Eagerly waiting for the next part

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  46. I feel like a kid again when your mom slams the story book shut before the end because its past your bed time! haha. Fascinating story though Aloysa, I cant wait till part two!

    Michael

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  56. RichUncle EL says:

    Interesting and personal story, thanks for sharing. Out of desparation anyone can find the strength to do anything.
    RichUncle EL recently posted..MillionairesMy Profile

  57. Vic says:

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story. Great read for alot of people I think.

  58. Addy Jhon says:

    Mother of the bride is the term that refers to the dress worn by the bride’s mother on the wedding day or any day related to the big day of the bride.
    Addy Jhon recently posted..Mother of the bride My Profile

  59. wow, your mother is a bomb, I really love my mother, not just there are take good care of us, but there always there for sorrow, when you are hurt, when you are inlove, everything she is always there.
    Bryan McCornick recently posted..Sample Post With Threaded CommentsMy Profile

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