This long blog post tells my whole story with Best-Matchmaking. If you just want to know about the fraud involved, look at my summery of the frauds on best-matchmaking.ORG, a website to review the Best-Matchmaking agency.
Wednesday, November 18th
On Line I frequently chat with my language teacher in Taiwan. She tells me, she want to marry one of her former students. I am sad. I wished I could be the one.
Disapointed, I am browsing my smartphone for distraction and come along some profile pictures on best-matchmaking.com. I like one of them and register on the site. On this point, everything is for free. Newly registered, I can send/receive a total of 4 letters free of charge. For more, I need to pay a monthly fee of 199 Euros. I will decide later. Here is the Pricing site:
Thursday, November 19th
I write to the woman I like. I get no answer.
Saturday, November 21st
To verify the profile on best-matchmaking.com, one can send a copy of your national ID or passport. It is free of charge. I do it. This way, my profile should appear more serious.
There is still no answer from the woman I wrote before. Therefore I browse through the other profiles on best-matchmaking.com. Some of them, I mark as my „favorites“.
Sunday, November 22nd
There is a first message! One of the women I marked as my favorites has wrote to me:
To read this „Free intro letter“ the site not even deducts on my 4 free letters for newly registereds. The subject line on the message is interesting: „Новый фаворит!!!„. Google translates „New favorite !!!„. The women are informed when I mark them as favorites.
I have a closer look at Maria’s profile (name changed). She is very small (145cm), want to change her life and looks for a husband between 23 and 65. I am just in the center of this range. All her pictures just show her upper part. Does she sits in a wheelchair? I consider this thought as paranoid. She writes nothing about children. But I have mentioned this wish on my profile. Did she read it? Actually, I believe all women wish to have children as soon as the relationship and the living circumstances get stable. Maria is just 26. I have no doubts.
Maria suggests a video chat. I also prefere it over endless mailing. I had this so much already. Last time with my Chinese language teacher. For video chats, I have to pay the monthly fee of 199 Euros. This monthly fee includes 3 half-hour video chats and also unlimited messages.
Monday, November 23rd
3 more women contact me. I had not marked them as favorites. I guess, my profile verification had this effect. The women look like models on a fashion magazine. Heavily made-up, they show their bodies. I am not looking for such a wife. Her messages are worded in rather general terms. None of them talk about what I write in my profile. Looking at Maria’s message, it is actually the same. It could be standard letters. Petra (name changed), the first one of the three new women today, she also suggests a video chat.
There is still no answer from the woman I wrote to first. I prefer to contact a woman who is interested in me over following somebody who does not reply my interest. The later, I have done all my life without success. But for today, I wait and see.
Tuesday, November 24th
Today I write to Maria and suggest a video chat for the weekend:
Wednesday, November 25th
To register for the video chat on the site, I need to pay the monthly fee of 199 Euros. It does not work. Even before I can enter my credit card number, I get a message telling me
„Issuer bank declined payment. Possibly internet payments not allowed for this card. Please refer your issuing bank for details.“
This is weird. I could allways do internet payments and here I have not yet entered any data of my credit card. I mail to the support of best-matchmaking.com and they answer quickly:
They know the problem and Ekaterina Ebahey, the CEO calls herself Kate, tells me how I can pay and sends me her banking arrangements in a PDF file.
I pay by TransfereWise. Zlata, general manager of Best-Matchmaking, tells me that Kate got my payment. Zlata can arrange the video chat via Skype. Her Skype name is help-best-matchmaking.
Further, I get a credit for receiving/sending 100 messages on my account at best-matchmaking.com.
Thursday, November 26th
In the morning, I mail to Zlata and book a video chat for Sunday morning 10 a.m. and also sent a message to Maria. In the afternoon Zlata contacts me on Skype. Maria also agrees. We agree on 10 a.m. Ukrainian time. This is 9 a.m. in Germany.
In the evening, one more woman sends me a message. She also suggests a video chat. Her message could also be a standard letter:
I do not reply to Ute (name changed). I do not want to get invoved with several women the same time.
Saturday, November 28th
The video chat on Skype needs further preperations. I need to log in on an account of the agency. Zlata gives me the login details:
With the help of the code, I can log into their account by the second attempt. I find countless groups in the contacts. The video chats are arranged in these groups including the man, the woman and the interpreter. There are lots of messages from men who had their video chats here. There is no privacy protection. Zlata is waiting for me on help-best-matchmaking and tells me for tomorrow to stand by on this account. The interpreter would contact me to arrange the video chat with Maria.
Sunday, November 29th
I talk with Maria on Skype. She is happy and seems to be as excited and nervous as me. It feels good. While she moves, I get irritated. It looks like injuries. It looks bad. But maybe it is just the unfavourable illumination. The video image is not very clear on this Skype call. Maria is on a delivery nurse training, on the first of three years. I am happy. For sure, she will like to have children herself. I have prepared a lot of questions. But time is running. I suggest another video chat for tomorrow. Maria agrees. She studies in the afternoon. Therefore we we agree on the same time as today.
In the afternoon I think about how to meet Maria in person. Her profile tells me she lives in Zaporozhye in the Ukraine. I ask Google where it is. To go there by car is extremely far.
Then I get a message of one more woman. I had marked Paula (name changed) as favorite as well. She writes differen then all the others before:
I like her upright attitude and straightforward aproach. I tell her that I already got in contact with another woman and would not get involved with others the same time. On Monday, she would thank me for my „rejection letter“ and wish me „happyness“ with the other woman.
Monday, November 30th
Last night, I asked myself, how this can continue. I cannot do such a video chat every day. Firstly, it is expensive. Secondly, I cannot organise my life this way. I have to meet this woman in person.
I get up early and look at the Internet how I to fly to the Ukraine. I book a flight to Zaporozhye for next weekend. 362.67 Euros seem to be little for a weekend togehter with Maria in person compared with 199 Euros for 3 half-hour video chats.
On the video chat I tell Maria the news. She is overwhelmed and excited. I am glad she does not feel blindsided. I ask her to pick me up at the airport on Friday evening. She agrees. And then, the question pops up: Would I arrange the meeting through the agency? Retrospectively, I think this question was not interpreted but asked by the interpreter herself. I say, I would tell the agency. Towards the end of the half hour, there is not much left to talk. We will soon meet face to face. A few minutes before the end of the 30 minutes, my phone battery dies. But this is now secondary.
After the video chat with Maria I send my flight schedule to her and Zlata, the general menager of Best-Matchmaking. I also tell Zlata Maria would pick me up from the airport.
Zlata answers me within a few minutes. Becaus of the time shift it looks like she would have answered before had wrote to her:
It seems to me the agency want to earn money from our meeting. On the website Best-Matchmaking offers so called Romantic Tours. I am not interested. I have always traveled independently and I have always met people in other countries independently. I do not need fancy things like champagne, candle light dinners or foto sessions in the style of the photos most women on best-matchmaking.com present in her profiles. I do not want a „minimum [of] 5 ladies to meet with“, as advertised on the site. I got Maria already.
However, I do not know how well Maria can speak English. Her profile says: English level: basic
In the video chats, she did not yet speak any English with me. It was not necessary. There was always the interpreter to help.
In the evening I find two messages from Maria in my letter box at best-matchmaking.com:
In the afternoon, a few hours after our video chat, Maria is just happy. Late in the evening, she asks me to organise our meeting through the agency. It very much looks like the agency had talked with her. I cannot find another explanation. Also Maria gives no reason for her new concern.
Tuesday, December 1st
I look for an interpreter in Zaporozhye. It’s not easy. But ukr interpreters offers four interpreters there. I choose the most trustworthy one and send a request.
I also book a room in the hotel Prague in Zaporozhye, Friday to Monday.
Today it is the first of December and the first Sunday in Advent. I want to make an „Advent calendar“ for Maria by a daily new picture on my profile. I choose a picture from Taiwan and write to her:
By accident, I also upload a photograph of a car into my profile. Unfortunately, I cannot delete it afterwards. Zlata would delete it for me a few hours later. Therefore I know: The agency does not check the profile pictures before they go online.
In between, I receive Kate’s newsletter: A few vague sentences about how international dating could still work despite corona along with styled pictures like in glossy magazines.
I reply Kate to her newsletter and tell her that we are fine to meet despite corona and ask her for an interpreter for Saturday:
Kate replies after 15 minutes:
She does not want to arrange interpretation for us. Instead she want to arrange everything I have not yet arranged myself (the flight and the hotel). This package would also include interpretation even though she just had told me a few lines before they would not arrange interpretation. Further I she tells me I should discus some travel preperations with her. I am actually in contact with her for exactly this reason. What is her point? Finally she asks me to send me a quote. What a question? She could just heve sent it. It all sounds dubious. I need time to think about it.
In the evening I send Kate a plan for the weekend and ask her for a quote. I simply want to see what she would offer me:
And in the evening also Maria writes to me again:
I will find my way to the hotel myself. This is not a problem. However, Maria’s repeated request to organise everything through the agency makes me feel unconftable. In the video chat Maria had no objections at all to just meet.
Wednesday, December 2nd
I get two answers from ukr interpreters: one from the boss in the USA, the other from the recruiter. Both want to contact the interpreter and come back to me asap. Kate from Best-Matchmaking makes a point more quickly and sends me her quote:
Now it is clear. She want to earn a lot of money from our meeting. According to the the About us page on best-matchmaking.com Kate „is a practicing psychologist“. Her psychological hook is obvious for me as well: First, she talks about an even higher price of 2100 Euros. Second, she asks for another relatively lower price that should look like a good deal compared with the initial higher price.
2020-12-22 update: Yesterday, the About us page has been changed. Kate now calls herself „CEO: -Katrina El – Maltese and American Matchmaker“. Furthermore, the service of my interpeter in Germany has not only pleased myself but obviously also Kate, who has asked her to to support her. On WayBackMachine one can find the page before and after the change:
The page About on November 6th 2020
The page About on December 22nd 2020
Basically she offers me interpretation for 10 hours. Every further hour shall cost 20 Euros. If I look on this the other way round: The 10 hours interpretation equal 10 times 20 Euros, therefore 200 Euros. The remaining 1100 Euros are obviously for stewarding me and Maria on our meeting (except for the taxi, which costs are insignificant compared with such prices, I believe).
Kate also writes, she would be responsible for my safety. I know this point from many travels I have done abroad where I was somehow somebody’s guest or I was working for somebody. In such cases, the host is somehow responsible for me visiting and everything I do can fall back on the host. This results in a complex relationship of dependencies. I for sure prefere to travel and act on my own resposibility.
However Kates second point bothers me most:
„2. Meeting organisation with your lady. What ever it is, our managers shall interduce you to a lady and provide with all necessary instructions.“ (highliting by myself)
These ‚insturctions‚ sounds very odd to me. A woman is not a toy which needs instruction to handle it. This second point sounds as if I should play a role in a game, the agency would make up for us.
Considering this offer is absolutely out of the question for me. Therefore I do not even reply. Now it is certain for me to arrange the meeting with Maria without the agency.
I search the web for customer feedbacks on best-matchmaking.com. I find many reports on Best-Matchmaking’s own website and a few ratings sites like Trustpilot. Most of the ratings are good. A few ones are bad. One costumer tells he had brought along his own interpreter because he generally would not trust marriage agencies. After a quarter of an hour of discussion when meeting with the interpreter of the agency, everybody calmed down and they continued as scheduled.
The above mentioned costumer feedback let me ask myself a question: Should I trust the interpreter of the agency? Especially when I talk with Maria and we arrange to meet each other? On Tuesday, It already felt strange when we she asked me to tell the agency about our meeting.
I book another video chat with Maria for tomorrow and look for my own interpreter.
Thursday, December 3rd
I meet with me interpreter and explain the situation. I am afraid the video chat may get shut down as soon as we would start to arrange our meeting. Furthermore, I am afraid the agency could delete my messages to Maria or may translate them incompletely. Even my message two days ago, telling Maria my hotel Prague in Zaporozhye, could have been truncated. The Terms and conditions on best-matchmaking.com states:
„5.6. We reserve the right to monitor and at Our own decision remove for any reason any information, photographs and/or other material Posted by You.“
Therefore I want to make clear first: My family name is Berlin and I have booked a room in the hotel Prague. German’s capital in Czech’s capital. Everybody can memorise this.
Contrary to my concerns, the video chat is totally easygoing. At the very beginning, I introduce my interpreter and suggest each interpreter would interpret in just one direction only to ease the flow of the communication. Unexpectedly, however, the agency’s interpreter backs out. She says she feels not needed. I tell Maria that I also got an interpreter for the weekend. But Maria got a friend who could interpret for us. After talking about the technical details we fall into expectant silence. A strange situation on the phone. Tomorrow I will be travelling. Therefore we will not speak to each other until Saturday. I tell Maria that I had asked the agency about arranging our meeting and tell her that the agency’s offer would be very expensive and therefore I would not book it. Maria agrees with my decision and tells me not to worry about nobody might show up.
After the video chat I tell my interpreter that it was far better than expected. Marias request to arrange our meeting through the agency, which request she had written to me repeatedly, this request was not even an issue. In the debriefing with the interpreter, I also conclude everything should go well. She gives me her card and tells me to call her whenever I might need help in Zaporozhye. With zest I go home.
I cancel the interpreter from ukr interpreters and I cancel Kate’s. I don’t need her tour. Again, she replies within a few minutes:
What was covered up as a tour yesterday, now it is explicitely a comission. However, I do not read her message anymore on Thursday evening and go to sleep full of of pleasant anticipation.
Friday, December 4th
When I want to upload a new Advent calendar picture for Maria into my profile in the morning, I find two messages from Maria in my inbox at best-matchmaking.com. One was sent yesterday at noon and the other one last night:
Kate’s email and these new messages from Maria trouble me. I did not expect Best-Matchmaking to bluntly tell lies to Maria:
- I would have disappeared
- our meeting would be against their rules
After the very easygoing and calm conversation in yesterday’s video chat the idea Maria could have been nervous and uneasy, this idea is totally absurd. I do not know whether this words originate from Maria herself, or have been put into her mouth. I hope the later. Technically Best-Matchmaking could manipulate any communication via their website. Whatsoever, I feel sorry for Maria. And I remember her promise to meet me. Anyhow, I am on the hop. I decide to fly. Either I will meet Maria or I will get a storry to tell. In the later case, I would publish my experience.
On the airport I reply to Maria before my boarding. I don’t know how the agency forward and translates my message to Maria. And I ask myself how confidentially my messages could get translated. I don’t want cause the agency to put more pressure on Maria. Therefore I do not write about our meeting. The same time I try to clarify the agency’s lies. It is an impossibility. Nevertheless, I give it a try:
The flight is calm and easy. Nobody is waiting for me on my arrival in Zaporozhye. A taxi driver loudly offers me a lift to my hotel for 10 dollars. I do not have dollars and try the bus. The bus costs 5 hryvnia, equal to 15 euro cent (0.18 USD). Unfortunately, the bus turns into the wrong direction. For the rest of the way to my hotel, I take a taxi for 110 hryvnia (3.25 Euros / 3.98 USD).
Saturday, December 5th
In the morning, I take a selfie infront of my hotel Prague and load it up into my profile on best-matchmaking.com. Every day a new Advent calendar picture.
Later I am sitting in my hotel room waiting. Maria does not show up.
While waiting, I have a closer look on the Best-Matchmaking website. There is nothing to find about a comission. There is also nothing to object meeting without the agency. On the cotrary, the FAQ states:
Is it possible to get direct contacts of the ladies from your Marriage agency?Due to our new company policy we have decided to provide our Matchmaking members with many new services, giving them the possibility to connect faster with Ukrainian women. One feature is to provide our male clients with the ladies’s direct information (telephone number, e-mail address, etc.). Normally, ladies and men do not include any contact information into their letters. It is forbidden. But, if your relations grow into something serious and you both have a wish to start talking on your own, then we will allow this.
The statement on this page is very clear: „if … you both have a wish to start talking on your own, then we will allow this.“
The German version of the FAQ is even more clear:
Ist es möglich, direkte Kontaktdaten der Damen von Ihrer Heiratsagentur zu bekommen?Ja! Aufgrund unserer neuen Unternehmenspolitik haben wir uns entschieden, unseren Kunden viele neue Dienstleistungen anzubieten und Ihnen die Möglichkeit zu geben, schneller mit ukrainischen Frauen in Verbindung zu treten. Eine Besonderheit besteht darin, unseren männlichen Kunden die direkten Kontaktdaten von den Damen (Telefonnummer, E-Mail-Adresse, etc.) zur Verfügung zu stellen.
Normalerweise enthalten die Mails von Frauen und Männern keine Kontaktinformationen. Es ist verboten. Aber, wenn aus Ihrer Beziehung etwas Ernstes wird und Sie sich beide einen direkten Kontakt ohne unsere Unterstützung wünschen, dann werden wir das zulassen.
The coresponding German part is even more clear: „wenn … Sie sich beide einen direkten Kontakt ohne unsere Unterstützung wünschen, dann werden wir das zulassen.“ It translates to Englisch: „if … you both wish a direct contact without our support, we will allow this.“
The same with the Terms and conditions. There is nothing about a commision and nothing objecting meetings without the agency.
I write to Zlata, the general manager of Best-Matchmaking. She would not answer my questions, but refer me to the boss. For the rest, she obviously just tells me the oposite of the FAQ sited above. Maybe she don’t know, I had asked Kate the very first for an interpretation service, but Kate refused.
I ask my interpreter from Thursday about her impression. Did she feel Maria was nervious and uneasy when she interpreted for us:
Before she could reply, I receive Kate’s advertisment:
…later my interpreter replies me from Germany:
…her anser is clear. Her perception was the same as my one. We make a phone call and I ask her to call the agency. Therefore I need to give her the agency’s phone number in the Ukraine. This is not so easy. best-matchmaking.com states the agency is registered in the Ukraine and has several offices in the Ukraine. However, there is no address and at Contact us there are just two numbers, one in the USA and one on Malta. Finally, I find a phone number in the FAQ:
I’m afraid of an Internet scam! Is your Agency for real?YES, Best-Matchmaking (former KatesModels) is a real matrimonial and matchmakung agency based in Ukraine. Our agency has been created more than 12years ago and our NEW ( https://www.best-matchmaking.com) web site was found in 2017 .
And our general manager is based in Ukraine and can be reached any time you need via telephones:
Ukraine: +380989899919, USA:+1 (775) 410 1005,
or skype: best-matchmaking.
Our company’s License number is 836852. We have offices in Kharkov, Zaporozhye and Kherson cities. Additionally, there are official partners in South Korea, Japan, China and USA.
And we also are partnered with many agencies located across Ukraine to introduce you to genuine marriage-oriented women of Ukraine. To learn more about our agency please visit the page About Us.
My interpreter calls this phone number in the Ukraine. She gets connected with a private houshold. The people there have nothing to do with the agency.
At this point, I actually do not believe Kate would give in anyhow. But at least, I want to discover her business practices. I want to see whether she would give me Maria’s phone number as claimed in the FAQ. Different to the English FAQ, the German FAQ clearly state:
Quotation of the German FAQ:
Unsere Kontakt-Austauschpolitik:Die Kontaktinformationen einer Frau werden einem männlichen Kunden mitgeteilt, wenn die Frau es (sic!) zustimmt, über Ihre Hintergrundinformationen informiert wird, und die Weiterleitung ihrer persönlichen Informationen an Sie genehmigt. Eine Frau kann ohne irgendwelche Erklärungen es ablehnen, Ihnen ihre Kontaktdaten zu geben. Eine Frau kann außerdem nach den Übersetzungsdiensten verlangen, wenn sie keine Ihrer Sprachen spricht. Für weitere Informationen kontaktieren Sie bitte uns.
Our Contact exchange Policy:A woman’s contact information is shared with a male client, if the woman agrees, get informed about your background information and approves the forwarding of her personal information. Without any explanation, a woman can refuse to give you her contact data. Further, a woman can require the translation service if she do not speak non of your languages. Please contact us for further information.
I show myself a little more angry:
And now I get even three answers:
- another one by Zlata, who forwards my email to Kate again to her
- and 3. by Kate herself, again via Zlata:
Obviously both of them working hand in hand. Here is Zlata’s answer:
Zlata now explicitly refers to the Terms and conditions. I read them again. I still do not find anything objecting meeting a woman. There is just one part concerning meeting a woman:
„4.4 Before to invite a lady to your country you must provide us with the record of your criminal background.“
Leaving aside the fact that I have not invited Maria to Germany, even there is written nothing about a commision. It is rather the opposite: If I could invite a woman to visit me in Germany, it should be no problem to invite her to visit me in her country. How could her country be a problem?
The next point is the Matchmaking Program. This is a package where the agency suggests matches. This program is individually tailored for each client. At least that is what the website tells us. In such an individually tailored package everything can be arranged. As I am not on this program, this program has nothing to do with my case. Zlata’s Matchmaking Program point just puts up a smokescreen. It is also shady how the program’s name equals the name of the website itself. This way clients can be confused easily. Quite at the end the Matchmaking Program page reads very vaguely:
The individually tailored matchmaking program may include:(…)
Personal contacts exchange with selected ladies
Just because this program may include the exchange of personal contacts, Zlata tries to conclude that she cannot give this contact data to somone not on the program. This is a kind of double negative inversion of an argument. I cannot follow this logic. The strategy behind is obvious: Distract the attention by incidential irrelevances and create confusion.
Meanwhile I have discovered that the Terms and conditions obviously contradict the above cited „Kontakt-Austauschpolitik“ in the FAQ. The Terms and conditions read:
1.7. Contact exchange Policy among our members.(…)
Best-Matchmaking does not provide the personal contact information between the Client and potential match before the personal face-to-face introduction, the exception is Matchmaking Programs. However, a woman may reject giving you her contact details without any explanations.
Here it is again, the Matchmaking Program. But the above cited FAQ page is titled „Online Dating FAQ“ and does not just generally refer to the Matchmaking Program. The opposite is the case: The Matchmaking Progam is advertised as a premium service, different from the ordinary online dating on the website. With the subheading „Why is Best Matchmaking service better than just communicating on the site„ the Matchmaking Program page reads:
The individually tailored matchmaking program may include:(a list of 15 possible advantages)
If you try to handle the Ukrainian dating process on your own:(a list of four disadvantages)
The page presents two options to find a wife: The Matchmaking Program and online dating on the website. I have found Maria by online dating on the website. The „Online Dating FAQ“ states the above mentioned Kontakt-Austauschpolitik (English: contact exchange policy).
The above cited subheading uses the term „Best Matchmaking service“ and just a line below it is called „matchmaking program“ again. This is just one of many examples how the terms are jumbled up on best-matchmaking.com. All together causes confusion. I cannot believe, all these are mistakes by accident.
Kate replies to me at 18:20, but sends her message back to Zlata. At 19:00 Kate replies to my email again on Zlata’s email account. Anyhow, both replies contain the same words:
First of all, Kate claims that I told her I would not want to come to Zaporozhye. I never told her. Just based on the fact that I have not accepted her tour offer, she just pretends to deduce I would not come to Zaporozhye. The agency had deleted my selfie before the hotel Prague. Therefore I know that they knew I am in Zaporozhye.
Next, Kate pretends a commision would be self-evident. Her words sound almost mocking in my ears: I am trapped. Because I am in here, I am in a plight and therefore I have to pay. In Germany we call this Wucher. I guess, it is called Price gauching in Englisch.
As Zlata did before, I Kate repeats the bogus argumet of the Matchmaking Program. However, Kate not even refers to the exchange of contact data, but tries to tell me we were not allowed to meet independently. But even for the ones on the Matchmaking Program there is not any policy on meeting each other.
Kate then talks about a policy. But she does not answer my question where I can find it on her website.
Finally, Kate offers me 100 Euros discount. I think, this is ridiculous.
In the evening I reply to Kate one more time:
Suday, December 6th
I upload another Advent calendar picture into my profile. This time my picture would not get deleted.
Afterwards, I share my plan with my interpreter in Germany:
My plan is to show interest for another offer Best-Matchmaking makes on the website: The so called ‚Special Event‘. This way, I ask Kate for her contacts in the Ukraine. If I cannot meet Maria this weekend, I would pretend intending to come back next weekend but stay here and try to find Maria on my own. Maria told me she is on a delivery nurse training. As far as I could find out, there are two institutions in Zaporozhye training delivery nurses. A medical university and a medical college.
I change my flight. The next flight is next Friday. Another flight is Monday next week. I choose the flight next week Monday. The rebooking costs 90 Euros.
To my email of today, Kate replies:
Kate does not defer to my suggestion of the Special Event, which is offered starting from 350 Euros on best-matchmaking.com. Despite her strange diction, Kate just tells me it starts from 2100 Euros for me.
By „tour section“ Kate again referes to her offer of Romantic Tours. This is exactly what I have not booked. Despite the fact, I have not booked such tour, the minimum price of 2100 Euro is only mentioned on the Englisch-reading page for Romantic Tours. The German-reading page Romantische Touren tells no price at all. More important: There is no information at all telling about the need to book such a tour to meet a woman. The agency hides this information as long as possible. This is deception.
However, Kate tells me her phone number in the Ukraine.
With little hope for success, I give Kate’s phone number to my interpreter in Germany. However, my interpreter gets a better impression of Kate then me. They can communicate in the local language. From my interpreters point of view, the hole situation looks like a big misunderständig. She proposes to me to negotiate a compromise. I still think this is an obvious fraud. However, Maria is waiting. This is the dilemma, the plight. And I am not that sure, I would actually find Maria on my own account. My plan to postpone everything to next weekend gets out of my mind.
After further back and forth, in the afternoon I get myself involved with the game and offer 500 Euros. Kate now offers about 6 hours meeting with an interpreter and flowers for Maria. We will not have more time tonight. Kate want 700. All these negotiations go via my interpreter in Germany. She alternatingly calls and texts with Kate or me. I need to pay her as well. We agree on 650 Euros. It is half of the 1300 Euro, Kate offered me first, but without flowers. The flowers for Maria, I prefer to choose myself.
Now, everything need to go quickly. We shall meet at 4 p.m. I transfer 650 Euros by MoneyGram. Somehow, just 625 Euros arrive. The remaining 25 Euros, I am supposed to pay cash to the interpreter. I rush to a flower shop and get red roses.
After the rush I need to wait. The others would come to my hotel. It is arround 5 p.m. when they arrive. Maria has dressed up herself beautifully. I give her the roses. The roses are almost as big as herself. I did read her hieght of 145 cm in her profile. However, I did not imagine… It does not matter. Maria radiates joy and me too.
For dinner we go to a good restaurant. On the way, I tell tell Maria, I have postponed my flight back to Germany to one week later.
Maria and me, we are both happily excited.
Everything is arranged by the agency. The vehicle as well. Although, transfers had been included in Kates offer initially, now I am supposed to pay the taxi service. I would realise this later. Right at the beginning in the restaurant, I pay the remaining 25 Euros to the interpreter Daria (name changed). She tells me to sign a form at the end of the evening, just to document how long she would have worked. This is in line with the offer, Kate sent me on Wednesday. I sign the form right away. Later, Daria would fill in the number of interpretation hours. From tomorrow, Daria suggests to work directly with me, bypassing the agency. Interesting: This morning, Kate told me: „All my local stuff (sic!) only fallow (sic!) me so all the questions regarding payments or organisations you have to solve with me.“ Was the word „stuff“ instead of „staff“ an Freudian slip?
Later we cross the big dam to visit a brewing pub. Her we take our first picture together:
We want to exchange our phone numbers. I carry neither phone nor paper to take a note. Daria, the interpreter, helps Maria with a piece of paper. Marias phone number is written on this paper. I can only read the number. I cannot read the name. I write „Maria“ next to it. Because I have no paper, I write my number beneath Maria’s number. I tear off lower half of the paper slip to give it Maria. This is the remaining half, which I have kept:
I drink a beer. The women drink herbal soda.
After 3 hours together, we come back to my hotel. Daria and Maria disappear with the same vehicle they arrived with. This taxi has been standing by for us all evening. My interpreter in Germany told me to also pay the taxi to bring Maria back home back home. It was one of the last details, she had negotiated between me and Kate. I tell Daria about the 6 hours included in the deal I made with the agency. For tomorrow, we still have 3 hours left. Therefore tomorrow, we would not bypass the agency.
Back in the hotel, I send an email back home, telling I would stay one more week. I install Viber and find Maria through her phone number on the slip of paper. Viber seems to be the usual messaging app in the Ukraine.
Monday, December 7th
In the morning, Maria goes to the delivery nurse training. We can only meet in the afternoon. Last week it was different: Last week Monday we had the video chat in the morning and she needed to go to the training in the afgfternoon. Corona seem to mess up all the schedules. Sometimes Maria got online training, sometimes she need to go to class.
Today I send my Advent calendar picture on Viber:
I use Google to translate my messages.
I have plenty of time this morning. To Kate I send a screenshot of my 650 Euro transfer to her. I ask her to refund me the 25 Euros I have paid to much:
I get no answer. By my interpreter in Germany, I understand that Kate claims she had to pay a commission when picking up the money at MoneyGram. Despite the fact, I paid commission to MoneyGram already, it was Kate who had insisted on MoneyGram. I wanted to pay cash. It fits into the the whole picture how Kate runs her business. MoneyGram displays the fees before the transaction. There is notheing about a picking up fee:
Daria, the interpreter provided by Best-Matchmaking is friendly but very unprofessional. Repeatedly, she replied my talk herself and got into chating with me while she dropped her task to interpret my words to Maria. Or she got involved in a chat with Maria and I was sitting aside not knowing what they are talking about. H have worked with interpreters on a daily base when I was in Taiwan. This experience has taught me how important the interpeter is. When Maria contacts me, I ask her about her friend who would have joined us on the weekend:
Maria want to figuere it out on our meeting today.
Around lunch time, Maria and Daria pick me up at my hotel. I am not sure: Is it the same driver again? We go to a shopping mall for lunch.
Maria tells me, her English-speaking friend got corona. Therefore she cannot meet us. I explain why I am not satisfied with Daria’s interpretation: Because she forgets her task to interpret. I therefore suggest to book an interpreter via interpreters.travels for tomorrow. However, Maria does not want another interpreter than Daria. Maria tells me (and Daria interpretes her) the same as she has written to me in her two messages after our video chat on Friday: She does not like to talk with me through a stranger. Maria tells me (again through Daria), she and Daria are friends, therefore she want to work with her.
While Daria goes to the restroom, Maria shows me her student ID. On this ID she got long fair hair. I cannot read the ID: everything in Cyrillic letters. As far as I can recall it, the date of birth in 1994 equals the data provided in her Profile on best-matchmaking.com. I show her my IDs and give her my card.
While Daria comes back, I am sharing photos with Maria. I have brought along a few photos of my family. Later, I just browse my phone. Since I have addressed the issue, Daria has improved her interpretation.
Maria need to join some kind of online test today afternoon. Before, she need to leave, we go to the grocery store downstairs in mall. Daria and Maria shop for around 15 Euros. I pay.
The taxi still stands by and we go back to the hotel. I give Maria my selfmade cheese brought along from Germany. I would like to still talk with Maria for a while and degust the cheese, but I sense Daria is in a hurry. At least I want to talk about the business with her. I tell Daria that I do not like the idea to bypass the agency. I cannot imagine this could work for good. At the end it is her risk. She is the one who works for the agency and potentially compromisses her relation to the agency. Maria takes a deep breath and offers 15 Euros per hour, in case I directly pay her. The agency charges 20 Euros per hour. I prefer to pay 5 Euros more for avoiding any potential trouble and I tell it to Daria. For now, I do not make a decision. At the end, I cannot know whether or not Daria hands in the forms where I confirm her working hours. Today we have met for 3 hours. Therefore 6 hours interpretation service included in the deal with Kate are gone.
In the evening, I am again sitting in the hotel idling. I would like to get closer to Maria. I do not like the framing how we meet. The taxi brings her and she disappears in the same vehicle. Daria, the interpreter, is always besides her. It actually feels more being between than besides us. Somehow this is logic. Daria translates our words for us. Nevertheless, for me it feels like a constraint, not like an enhancement. I text to Maria. Maybe I can meet her without Daria. My phone translates Maria’s Russian language into German language. Unfortunately in quite low quality. My effort to meet Maria does not succed. Insead, there are two unexpected turns in the conversation:
My effort to meet Maria leads to nothing. But at 17:46, Maria tells me that Daria called her and told her, she is crying because I would have paid her service for today. I promis to solve the issue and I understand Daria is unprofessional even in another perspective: Even though Maria and Daria may be close friends, Daria should try to solve such an issue with me befor calling Maria.
Later, by 19:45, Maria writes to me: „Ок, я не хочу сидеть в отели, ты меня стесняешься?“. In Englisch, the translation by my smartphone reads: „OK, I don’t want to go to hotels, are you shy infront of mine?“ In the context, where I have asked her to come to my hotel, this makes little sense. I try Google Translate and get: „Ok, I don’t want to stay in hotels, are you ashamed of me?“ Somehow, this strikes a chord within myself. I do not feel ashamed of Maria, but I have to admit: I am not sure how to deal with her. Maria is growth-restricted and I don’t know: What can she do and what she cannot. Together with her, I feel helpless. And I do not really like to exhibit my helpnessless in the public.
But there is another reason why I would prefere to just meet and sitdown with Maria in my hotel: The lift with lift by taxi, choosing a restaurant, reading the menu, choosing a dish, ordering, all the related smalltalk, paying the bills and so on. All this even with Daria’s interpretation, it distacts me. This way a cannot get closer to Maria.
Tuesday, December 8th
All night, it crossed my mind: How to get clarity into this messed up situation. I write down on cards all the questions and issues, I want to mention. I get more than 20 cards. After sunrise, I go to the beach along the big river.
Later I call my interpreter in Germany and ask her, how many hours interpretation she agreed upon. She calls Kate and tells me, everything is all right: 6 hours have been agreed upon. The 3 hours on Monday are included in the deal. I text Daria about this. She should double check with the agency.
Today, Maria can meet earlier. I find a nice café less than five minutes walk from my hotel and suggest to Maria to meet there. She agrees. I go into this café OZ. While waiting for Maria, I sort my cards. It is noon time, when Daria and Maria arrive. I think, it is stupid how Maria everytime takes the long way to meet me. Why we cannot do it the other way. I have all the time in the world, while Maria is involved in her daily live and her studies.
Finally the two women arrive and immediately Daria confuses me by saying I had not paid for Monday. For the 3 hours interpretation on Monday I had to pay her 3 times 30 Euros fto the agency. First of all, I thought, this issue is solved already. But more confusing for me: Now she askes for 30 Euros instead of 20 Euros per hour. Daria shows me the form I have signed yesterday: Indeed, the form reads something about 30 Euros per hour. I have not really read the form before and I am so confused that I just say: „Ok. I have signed it. I pay it.“ After that, I ask for the form. Daria gives it to me.
After this shock, I stick with my cards. This way I can at least ask the questions that moves me. Unfortunately, I do not yet get strong answers. The answers seem superficial to me. Everything need to be translated. The conversation is lengthy and vulnerable to all kinds of disturbances. I am stuck.
While Maria mooves, she shows her injuries. It does not look nice. My impression in the video chat was right. After I have addressed the issue, Maria moves more freely. I ask her about her picture at her profile on best-matchmatchmaking.com, where she smiles with a perfect body. She explains her picture is older. Her injuries happened more recently. But Maria also has told me she is new at Best-Matchmaking. Therefore I see the limitations of Best-Matchmaking’s profile check as mentiond on the frontpage at best-matchmaking.com:
Why Best-Matchmaking?1. Only serious marriage intentions, Each profile checked for authenticity (my emphasis)
2. High response rate by women – ap. 84%, Professional dating advice and tips
3. 50 new women profiles daily
4. Helping 200 single Western men find a bride each month
On the Matchmaking page reads even more clear:
All the current ladies‘ photos you can see on the website are genuine and have been recently approved
According to archive.org’s WayBackMachine, Maria joined best-matchmaking.com between October 1st and November 7th. I cannot imagine, her injuries just happened afterwards. Another issue strikes my attention while I browse archive.org: The profile IDs are issued chronological. At October 1st, the highest profile ID is 15406, at November 7th it is ID 15625. These are 219 new profiles in 38 days. How could less than 200 women per month help „200 single Western men find a bride each month“ (point 4 in the quote above)? Obviously, there are no more than 5 to 6 new profiles per day, far less than the advertised „50 new wonen profiles daily“ (point 3 in the quote above).
I ask Maria about her English. Her messages through Best-Matchmaking’s message service were good to understand last week. On the other hand, the English was full of mistakes. This English does not look like a professional translation. Maria explains to me: If she gets a message, the agency calls her and reads the message for her in Russian language. Afterwards, she tells her answer to the agency in Russian language again and the agency writes the message in unfortunately imperfect English to me. In the light of Maria’s English, the result is reasonable. Maria tells me, she cannot understand long sentences. Everything interpreted by Daria. By this time, I have not heart more than single English words from Maria’s mouth.
Quote from the Terms and conditions:
1 Letters exchange services:(…)
1.3. The letter exchange service includes confidential translation of each letter sent and received. (…)
MonitoringWe may monitor and record communications with you such as chat conversations and emails for the purpose of training, quality assurance, fraud prevention and compliance.
Later we want to go shopping. I want to get into the rear of the car, together with Maria. Daria prevents it. I cannot get rid of the feeling, Daria stands in the way between Maria and me.
After Maria has bought medicine at the pharmacy in the shopping mall (I paid. I am not sure, wheter Daria herself had asked me to do so or Daria had interpreted Marias request.), I suddenly find myself in front of shelves with electric radiators. I think: It looks like the next scam. At the café OZ, Maria has mentioned how she feels cold in her student dormitory. Now we are standing in front of the solution. We have a look on several models and the two women ask a clerk about some details. I am electronics engineer and therefore I can also say something about these radiators. Nobody asks me to buy a radiator for Maria. After a while, I decide to buy Maria the German model for around 45 Euros. Maria shows herself very grateful. Back in the taxi, I suggest Maria to assemble the radiator back at her home. Maria (via Daria) regrets, I could not enter her dormitory. For me it is clear: Somebody does not want me to visit Maria at home. I don’t know yet who it is.
Later we go out for dinner. I invite our taxi driver to join us. It is always the same one. Maria tells me that she knows him from volunteering. Maria asks me, whether she could smoke water pipe. For me, this is a strange question. Anyhow, the atmosphere relaxes in our group of four. It is no longer this funnily businesslike situation I have experienced before, where Maria was sitting oposite to my with Daria aside us. Once I seat myself onto the bench next to Maria and move closer to her, however, she moves away. I think, it is visible at the photograph the taxi driver takes from us:
I ask myself: Why is Maria still meeting me?
I cannot really imagine, this all being just a big show, where Maria is just a player in a put-up job. Who would cast a growth-restricted woman for such a game? And Maria does not flirt.
However, I pay her friends, Daria, the interpreter, and the taxi driver. Maybe she just do not compromise their earnings. I want to find it out.
At the end of the evening, I pay the taxi driver and Daria counts 4 times 20 Euros for 4 hours of interpretation. I pay it as well.
Back in the hotel, I have a closer look on the agency’s form:
Actually, it says: The service has been paid in advance (point 2) and every further hour costs 30 Euros (point 5). More interesting is the fact, that the 20 Euro per hour, which Kate has offered me last week, this is not a special price. Best-Matchmaking announces this price on the web page about the Romantic Tours. Why are there 30 Euros stated on Best-Matchmaking’s form?
Why Daria charged me 20 Euros per hour for today? Through the agency, it should be 30 Euros per hour. Without the agency, it should be 15 Euros. I don’t understand.
And finally: How could the agency expact Daria to collect the 3 x 30 Euros if the agency did not know Daria still works for me without them today?
Tomorrow, I need to do some frank talking. Because I do not trust Daria anymore, but also because I know how easily interpreters can forget their job in case of an argument concerning themselves (In such cases the translation just disappears. Usually this is not even inteded. I have experienced it repeatedly in Taiwan.), therefore I book my own interpreter on interpreters.travel for tomorrow. Short noted for tomorrow, there is only one interpreter available on the website. I do not know exactly what time I will meet Maria tomorrow. Up to this point, I have not yet managed to make a specific appointment with Maria. Arrangements were always vague like „in the afternoon“ or „before the afternoon“. Therefore I book the interpreter from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The days before, we alway met within this timeframe.
It also attracts my attention that Maria calls herself Bunny on Viber. I think, this is childish. This name reminds me of the women at Seagate in Thailand, where I was working in their hard drive production in a clean room. Hundreds of small figures in these hoodie overalls mummed and impersonalised. 17 years ago, I did an intership there. With their tiny fingers these women assemble the tiny computer hard drives in unworthy working conditions. These women were called bunnies by the government. Back then, I thought, they call them as they treat them: like animals. When they grow older, I think by the age of 30, they got fired. Their fingers would not be fast enough anymore.
Wednesday, December 9th
In the morning the interpreter, I have booked yesterday on interpreters.travel, she cancels her service. She is not in town today. I decide, I will talk up frankly even without my own interpreter. Despite she has canceled, I have already agreed with Maria to meet in the café OZ again. It works as usual. Maria and Daria arrive in the same car with the same driver who drops them in front of the café and stands by in the back street. This framing I cannot change today.
Straight at the beginning, I ask Daria about the different rates for interpretation. Especially I ask her, how the agency could expect her to collect the fee for Monday on Tuesday while she met and worked for me supposably without their knowledge.
Daria tells me usually the agency would rate 25 Euros per hour. The agency keeps around 7 out of the 25 Euros. The rest is would be credited onto her account. If she did not hand in the client’s money, nothing would be credited on her account.
After 20 and 30 Euros now 25 Euros. It is so inconsistant. I really don’t know what to say. If Daria usually gives around 7 out of the 25 Euros to the agency, she will get around 18 Euros onto her account. 18 Euros are 3 more than the 15 Euros, Daria offered me without the agency. Why would she do that?
Daria says she works for around one year for Best-Matchmaking. How long could one bypass the agency in this chaotic way, without something comes to light?
Finally the story how the agency would not pay Daria in case she cannot cash in from the client. If this is true, it casts a shady light on the way the agency treat their staff.
I have heard enough and tell Daria that I am going to pay 15 Euros per hour today. Tomorrow I want another interpreter. Daria agrees with the 15 Euros. But Maria want to work with Daria and nobody else. She just want to stop this argument. Somehow, I can unsterstand Maria. The atmosphere is at grassroots level. I stop the discussion.
I have written on cards the American psychologist Artur Aron’s 36 Questions to Fall in Love. These cards rescue me now. After the annoying argument I cannot just make small talk. I give the cards to Daria. She asks us in turns. These questions contain a lot of starting points for fruitful conversation. After some turns, Daria likes these questions and asks me for the source.
Daria’s linguistic limitations get very obvious now. She has great difficulty to understand the more complex ones of Aron’s questions in English. I know the questions and can help. The process still drags on quite slowly. Within maybe two hours, we do one third of the questions. I understand why our conversation all these days could not gain any deepness.
It gets dark and Maria does not feel very well. I am also exhausted. We decide to go out into a park.
Before we leave for the park, Maria gets medicine and veils from the pharmacy on the other side of the road. Daria tells me Maria need it for her training. Maria pays without hesitation. Back in the taxi though, Daria asks me to give Maria the money she has paid in the pharmacy. Daria says it would have been Maria’s last money.
We pass by the medical university and I ask Maria: „Do you study here?“ The answer is no. Maria studies at the medical college, not at the medical university. It is the answer I have expected. Maria has told me she lives in a dormitory right next to her nursery training. The university is quite cloise to my hotel but Maria needs around one hour to come to mour meetings.
The park where we go turns out to be a big asphalt square with trees arround. We watch the rainbow installation. We do not leave the car. Except Daria. She need to meet somebody.
When Daria comes back, Maria want to go home. The taxi brings me back to my hotel and leaves with the two women.
Thursday, December 10th
I get up early and go out. I need to move. I have a new plan to escape the pattern, where Maria and Daria always visit me together and leave together. Always with the same car and driver.
I ask Daria to meet an hour before we meet Maria. I tell her I want to surprise Maria and would need to prepare this together with her. I want to surprise Maria and see how would stick with me. Furthermore, I do not want to discuss all the truble with her infront of Maria. In case she really works for me, she need to agree to it. I also send her yesterday’s 36 questions:
Daria gets herself into it. At least, it looks like this. However, my plan is bigger and I walk along the big main road towards Maria’s medical college. I want to see it. I want to get an idea of it. Is all this possible which I just have heart of?
I am walking through all the city. For hours. I see how decayed this city is. Gray and depressing. Many houses are breaking down. Shops are open. I don’t see much rubbish.
The medical college is part of a hospital complex on the borders of the city, between leafless winter trees. This place is as remote as Maria has depicted it. The student dormitory is just next to the college. Everything is real and trustworthy. I feel joy having found this place. I do not dare to enter dormitory and college. It would it look like to just drop in? Even waiting in the café at the bus stop at the hospital complex feels to intrusive to me. I go back allong the big road towards the city.
Within 10 minutes walk, I am back in the city. I choose the first café along the big road, take a picture and send it to Daria:
…but later Maria contacts me and tells me, she does not feel good. I still ask Daria to meet without Maria but she preferes to cook for her granny:
I take a bus back to my hotel. I understand: I cannot seperate Maria and Daria. I have to surprise both of them.
The boss of ukr interpreters has sent me the phone number of an interpreter in Zaporozhye. I try to call her. I somehow cannot contact her by my phone with German SIM card. After half an hour, I manage to contact her by SMS. Unfortunately, she does not work as a interpreter at the moment. I try it again at interpreters.travel: I book another interpreter for Saturday and Sunday. I will organise the weekend for Daria and Maria. They will be my guests. Non of them will work for me. Not even the taxi driver. I search the net for a car rental. I prefer to drive my self anyway.
Friday, December 11th
According to my web research, the airport is the only place to rent a car in Zaporozhye. In the morning, I take a bus to the airport and this time it works.
At the airport there is no car rental. The only thing there is a tourist information desk. Unfortunaltely, there is nobody at this tourist information desk. The guards indicate that somebody would come. The young lady is very friendly. After a week of struggle, this is just wonderful. My heart opens up. She is helping me: There is a Sixt car rental office in town. It is inside the InterTourist, the prime hotel location. She calls a taxi for me. While waiting for the taxi, we have time for smalltalk. Her name is Alena and she gives me her phone number. I really enjoy just being able to talk to somebody. She guides me to the taxi. The taxi driver is friendly, quiet and very fast.
While the web offered me more than 20 different vehicles to rent in Zaporozhye, the officer in the Sixt office got just one Golf. Even more, this car is currently rent out. Maybe it will come back today. Most likely, we could know it at 1 p.m.
1:30 p.m. I want to meet Maria. For the first time, I have been able to fix a meeting time with Maria. Further I have tried to meet Maria at her place, but today she is somewhere else in town. I ask Daria again to meet before:
Today, she cannot meet me earlier because she has to interpret a video chat.
Now the second interpreter booked on interpreters.travel cancels too. My plan to organise the weekend threatens to colaps. In this misery I go to toursist information bureau and ask for another car rental in town. But there is just this one car rental in Zaporozhye, the one in the InterTourist hotel. I feel really helpless and leave the bureau. But then, I go in again and ask for an interpreter for the weekend. By my second or third attempt, the lady understands my request. She makes phone calls. I am waiting for quite a while. After a while, the lady tells me she knows an interpreter, however, she could not get her on the phone. She would contact me as soon as there are any news. A quite vague achivement, I think and leave the bureau again.
I start to walk back towards the Sixt office in the InterTourist hotel. On the walk, a tourist guide calls me up. She can guide us on the weekend and she can interpret. And she got a car. Quickly we come to an agreement. She will come to my hotel Prague at 9 am on Saturday morning.
The weekend is prepared. In addition to car and interpretation, I even got a guide for the weekend. However, my mobile phone battery dies. I rush to the InterTourist hotel. I have agreed to meet Maria there in half an hour.
Inside the InterTourist immerse into a different world. The only one, wearing a face mask is the man standing at the entrence. Inside everything is beautiful. In the lobby I feel how the people relaxe and take it easy. My phone is charging and my apple juice costs about one Euro.
Daria gets me out of the InterTourist. Does somebody do not want to show up here? Our taxi brings us to the shopping mall where we went on Monday already and we go to the same restaurant in the upper floor.
Maria is cheerful today. Yesterday’s malaise is blown away. She gives me a huge jar of her mother’s home-preserved watermelon. I am quite nervous with my surprise. However, Maria makes it easy for me. She is interested why I got into the InterTourist hotel. I tell her about my failed attempt to rent a car for the weekend. It follows the whole story how I found the guide who can interpret and got a car. I invite both, Daria and Maria, to be my guest on the weekend. To make it totally clear, I tell Daria, she would not need to work this weekend. Everthing would be prepared. The guide would come to the my hotel at 9 a.m.
Both are totally stunned. They are speechless. The translation breaks down as I have expected. I know this phenomenon. But everythinghas been said. Maria once more tells me she don’t want to talk with a stranger. But I tough it out and tell Maria if she want to come to Germany she need to talk with strangers anyway and I want her to go this step now.
Next it gets chaotic. Maria talks about a friend who speaks German language. I am fine with him joining us. Consequently, Maria goes to the restroom. I ask Daria about the weekend. She does not know yet whether she will be free. And then Daria also goes to the restroom. I am waiting.
The situation is clear: Non of Maria’s friends will earn money on this weekend. Who will still meet me without this financial motivation?
One by one, Daria and Maria come back. Maria now needs to go to study. Maria or Daria says, we might meet again later in the evening. I can no longer understand what is Daria’s statement and when would she interpret Maria. Instead, I understand we can meet Maria’s German-speaking friend right away. We meet him at ground floor.
Maria still want to go grocery shopping. Best-Matchmaking’s CEO Kate recommends to men to go shopping with their date. I am not surprissed.
Together we enter the grocery store. Daria and Maria go around shopping together. I talk with the German-speaking friend. He got a question: What do I do for living? I explain it. He is dentist. Currently, he cannot enter Germany however.
The purchaise costs arround 20 Euros today. Afterwards everybody hurries to leave. I have all the time of the world and walk back to my hotel on foot.
We have not concluded on anything. Neither concerning today’s evening nore concerning the weekend. I simply wait and see.
Two hours since we parted I receive a shocking message. I cannot believe it. And this is what I reply:
Summery: Maria tells me her roommate got tested positive for the corona virus. Therefore we cannot meet.
The coincidence is too unlikely. Just in the moment Maria is faced with the decission to follow me, the corona issue appears as an excuse.
I wonder if Maria is afraid of I could reveal, publish the story. I also wonder, why I have not received any of the photographs we have made together, despite I asked to share them with me when we took the photos. Therefore I ask Maria for the pictures:
…to my surprise Maria sends me all the photographs.
Saturday, December 12th
The tourist guide arrives on time at 9 a.m. Her name is Oksana and she is still wondering what to expect. I explain how I have invited Daria and Maria for the weekend to find out who would join me without financial motivation. I tell her how Maria and Daria reacted. Oksana is in the know now. She agrees to show around just me. I have booked her service and now I do not want to send her away.
We go to the big river and cross the big double layer bridge to the big island, view the big dam and visit the wooden Cossack fortress. She tells me all the legends growing around the city and the places we visit. Afterwards we go to a car museum. Maria recommended this museum before. It obviously was collected and built up by many volunteers in times of transition after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. On the way for lunch, Oksana recognises my interest for architecture. After lunch we visit a newly opened museum of the city’s history. Later we go around the city and visit the historic buildings themselves. Oksana tells me her own home town story.
Back in the hotel, in the evening I see the Maria’s messages. It looks like an attempt to arouse my pity:
Maria tells me about her fiever and her feeling very bad. She want to leave the room where she now stays with the corona infected roommate. My smartphone does not translate Maria’s latest message. Google translates: „You do not wanna be with me“
I tell her, I am not afraid of getting infected by meeting her:
…later at night, I hit on the idea to invite Maria to my hotel.
Sunday, December 13th
Yesterday, I have canceled for today. I want peace to review last week and write this report.
While inserting screenshots of messages of the three women who contacted me on November 23rd, I realise they all mailed me exactly at the same time. One can see the time stamp on the messages. And I also realise how the beautiful Katherine is repeatedly displayed prominently at Best-Matchmaking’s frontpage on an ad banner titled ‚New Profiles‚:
Katherine’s profile uses the ID 13533. The IDs are obviously used chronologically. Therefore Katherine’s profile should be a little older. On archive.org I find her profile already on May 11th on Best-Matchmaking’s gallery. Her profile seems to got registered a few days before.
And there is one more thing I realise: The profile of Paula, the only woman on best-matchmaking.com, who had shown a clear stance, this profile has been deleted:
Her message is now „by no name„.
Finally, I realise Maria’s second message on December 1st was sent exactly two minutes after I have ask Kate for an offer. In this message, Maria asks me to arrange arrange our meeting through the agency. I did sent my email to Kate 20:16. Maria’s message is from 20:18. Could this happen by chance?
In the afternoon Maria contacts me again:
She is still sick and want to make a corona test. It looks very similar to yesterday. But then something unexpected happens. Somebodey unknown contacts me on Viber:
I do not know the name „Madonna“ (name changed). But she sends me a picture of me and Maria:
I think, somebody want to blackmail me. But I have not done anything compromising. I do not want to hide this journey. But before I know how to react, I recognise it is totally different:
It is Maria herself.
This new turn is demanding for me. Suddenly am afraid of a trap. However, I cannot find any explanation for my fear. Therefore I agree and go to the café OZ to wait for Maria.
It is 16:45 when Maria contact me again and asks me to come out of the café. She comes round the corner of the backstreet. She tells me: „I have a problem.“ In fact, she speaks English. Her problem is, she want to smoke. While smoking a very, very thin cigarette, she tells me how Best-Matchmaking told her not to state smoking in her profile. Last week, she suffered and almost could not bear our meetings when she could not smoke.
Now I understand why Maria asked me for permission to smoke a water pipe at our dinner on Tuesday. And I understand how Best-Matchmaking understands their word of „checked“ profiles.
We can be sure Best-Matchmaking knows the smoking issue. Kate, the boss of Best-Matchmaking blogged on the issue just before October:
Kate and Best-Matchmaking are very aware of the smoking issue. Therefore „checking“ the profiles could only mean they check for the desired entries, not for the truth in the entries. Oddly enough, Kate states: „And we don’t cheat here – we always state the truth in their profiles.“ It sounds like the agecy is writing the profiles, not the women.
Maria’s profile reads: „English level: basic„
This is correct. She understands simple sentences. How comes Best-Matchmaking’s CEO Kate wrote to me on December 1st about Maria „your lady speaks no english“?
We go into the restaurant next door. We communicate in broken English and by the hlep of Google Translate. Where there’s a will there’s a way.
Maria tells me how she liked my invitation for the weekend excursion on our meeting on Friday. She would like to visit the neighbour city Dnipro together with me. She wanted to meet me without Daria but the agency had insisted this would be against their rules. Maria did not know my phone number because the agency had kept the paper slip where I had noted my number for her on our first evening, she says. The smartphone with the Bunny account would be the agency’s phone. The agency just lent it to her. She herself just got a dumbphone.
On my card, Maria could not recognise my phone number. Indeed, my phone number shown quite discreetly on my card. The first number is a landline. Only the second one referes to my mobile phone. Moreover the international access code is missing:
Her roommate helped Maria. She has given her smartphone to Maria and together they somehow figured out my number to contact me on Viber.
Maria is afraid of the agency. What would happen if they found we meet against their rules. We agree to consider the agency’s rules as wrong. I ask Maria if she gets money from the agency. First, Maria does not even understand my question. Later she denies. For me this is absolutely trustworthy. At the end there is nothing to fear, for Maria too.
I am glad Maria has found her way to me, though just shortly before my departure. I wonder, should I change my flight back home a second time? How could we really get to know each other better in such short time? Maria is more practical. She suggests to visit Dnipro right now tonight. My flight departs tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. from Zaporozhye.
We inform my hotel and call a taxi to Dnipro. Immediately I recognise a difference: Maria tries to get a good price, despite I would pay. Soon we ride through the night. Finally we sit on the back seat together. On the road, Maria calls her mother. The mother thinks Maria is crazy. I say „Hello!“, our different languages do not allow further communication.
We just got off the taxi in Dnipro and the next car drives up. It is Maria’s German-speaking friend. His name is Bert (name changed). I understand, he had tried to contact me on Viber on Saturday.
We cruise the nightly city. Many locations are closed becauseb of the coronavirus. Also here, visit the big river and roam the city. At least the city centre of Dnipro is decorated in glittering Christmas decoration and not as dekayed as Zaporozhe. At 10 p.m. our restaurant closes due to the coronavirus. We continue to cruise the city. At a fuel station Maria buys beverage. She does not expect me to pay.
I offer Maria to buy a smartphone to her. I wish we could communicate without Maria need to borrow her roommates smartphone. Maria’s spontaneous reaction is clear: „This is big money!“ Anyway, there is no open smartphone shop tonight.
Our communication is complex. I speak German with Bert, he broken. I speak English with Maria, she broken. Maria and Bert speak Russian with each other, very fast.
Eventually we realise, there is no taxi available anymore to bring us back to Zaporozhye tonight. I try to change my flight. It is too late. We are a few hours before my flight departs. I suggest just to drop my flight back and book a new one tomorrow. Maria opposes this idea: Too expensive. Even though she obviously feels uneasy for Bert finally driving us back to Zaporozhye in the middle of the night. I slip him some money. It is entirely different to the days before when I clearly felt the expectation of my money.
I want to give my smartphone to Maria. I can buy a new one. She say, she does not need it. She can borrow her roommate’s smartphone. She writes down her phone number on a piece of paper:
Later Bert still drives Maria to her dormitory on the other end of the city. Last weekend it closed at 10 a.m.
Monday, December 14th
With the help of the friendly Alena at the tourist information at the airport, I have booked the friendly taxi driver to pick me up at 5 a.m. at my hotel. Twenty menutes before, he is already waiting in front of my hotel. I pack my stuff and I am ready to go at 5 a.m.
Maria wanted to accompany me to the airport. I cannot contact her. I have expected this. To go to the other side of the city for maybe one hour of sleep and to come back to my hotel by taxi before 5 a.m., this plan sounded too odd to me already last night. Last night it became clear that Maria and me, likewise had got into a maze we both tired to get out of without hurting the other one.
At the airport I tell Alena what has happened to me. I tell the whole story. So much has happened since Friday. By her help I could not find a car to rent, but she gave me wings. After meeting her, I got the feeling I can gain back control over my situation. Once I tell Alena my age of 45 and Maria’s age of 26, it flips out of her mouth: „Are you serious?“ I thank her for her honesty.
I change flights at Kiew airport. In the queue for the safety check I meet Kai (name changed). Kai is 55 years old and dated Ukrainian women for several years. Now he is on his way back to Germany. But he is moving to his wife at the Black Sea coast. Kai recomeds me another Internet platform to find a wife: rus-date.com. Without scam, he says. I mention the 650 Euros which I have paid to the agency. It gives him a wince. Obviously it sounds very expensive to him. The approximately 2000 Euros I have spent in total on this journey, he considers rather little. He spent 3000 Euros when he the first time went to the Ukrain to find a wife. He also recommends to get an Ukrainian SIM card. For 10 Euros one could phone and surf for one month. In my case the mobile phone has cost me around 80 Euros, even though I really rarely called and uses WLAN as much as possible.
Back in Germany I ask Maria if she want to continue to use best-matchmaking.com for dating. Her answer is clear:
Google translates her anser as: „No. I no longer work with an agency and I do not want to.“ I am glad about this. As soon as I publish this testimony, she may be kicked out.
Wednesday, 16. December 16th
A thought strikes me: If the agency gives out the smartphone with the Bunny account to a woman, the agency still could log in to this Bunny account on a PC. This way they would maintain access to the communication.
Another question remain open:
best-matchmaking.com is trilingual: On the upper right corner of the website one can choose English, Deutsch (German) and 日本語 (Japanese). Many women on best-matchmaking.com do not or poorly speak these languages. Is there a Russian version? How would it look like. Maybe the agency contact the women just through their local offices or by phone as they did with Maria. Maybe they get nothing in written form. In such a case the agency could tell them anything.
Thursday, December 17th
Besides Best-Matchmaking’s newsletter…
…I now get promotional mail from another online dating plattform as well:
Friday, December 18th
Now I have written down this entire testimony to the best of my knowledge and belief. As is often the case, the truth is far more nuanced than the black and white we may expect at the beginning. Everyone need to draw their own conclusion.
Saturday, December 19th
I am proofreading my testimony. While double checking I see Maria’s profile has been deleted at best-matchmaking.com. I am glad about this. I already wanted to suggest Maria to do this before I would publish this report.
Friday, December 25th
I cannot log in on best-matchmaking.com. My one month membership for 199 Euros has expired. My Profil is still online though. Not even I can delete it myself.
Update January 30th 2021:
After I had informed other men on Best-Matchmaking’s online dating plattform about my disappointing and revealing journey to Ukraine, my profile was removed from the plattform. Here you can still find my profile on Archive.org.
Tuesday, December 29th
I can log into my account on best-matchmaking.com again. Even more, I find messages of 6 women in my letterbox.
On November 23rd, just after I had verified my profile, I got 3 messages from 3 different women within just 2 minutes. From November 29th, the moment I showed interest in Maria and had a Skype chat with her (and an interpreter of the agency), I received not a single message from any other women. Only after 10 days back in Germany and Maria being removed from Best-Matchmaking’s dating platform, now I receive messages again. Since December 23rd, I received 6 messages by 6 different women:
Below the 6 new messages there is the last message of Maria from December 6th, just before we met. Maria’s profile has been delated. Again the 6 new messages are all written in general terms and look like standard letters. Non of these 6 women had been marked as my favorite. The timing of the messages cannot just be by chance. Obviously the messages are controlled by the agency.
Moreover, the 4 messages I received on December 23rd and December 24th, these 4 messages were sent to at least two other men at exactly the same times. A woman might send identical messages to several men the same time. This is possible. But here all these 4 women sent identical messages to the same three men at the same times. How would all of them want to contact exactly the same three men the same time? Only the agency can arrange this.
And there is something else that changed:
I can open and read the new messages without getting charged. Where there was the subject line before, now there it reads „READ LETTER“ and if I click on it the message opens without reducing my credits. It looks like my profile has been unlocked in a new way. Maybe the agency expects me to try it again.