Intending spouses

Over 600 international marriages effected in Minsk each year
Public opinion used to change radically since Peter the Great married Marta Skavronskaya and invited foreigners to build the new Russia. Later, international marriages were popular. Vivid example: by the 20th century the Romanov dynasty was by 80 per cent German, Dutch etc. Following years saw different chance of Slavonic brides at world “wedding market”. It was zero chance in 1947, when the Supreme Soviet prohibited international marriages. And the best chance was during the USSR collapse, when a furious flow of brides and grooms flooded to the West. Mere fact: 200 thousand applicants were registered in “Moskovskaya sviaz” agency! Today a new spiral turn is observed as foreign marriages gradually become more reasonable. In Belarus, at least.

My second half

Minsk city marriage House is a kind of Mecca for international couples. 2,000 marriages are effected here every year, and each third is an international one. Representatives of 82 states have married in Belarus within 5 recent years, according to Nadezhda Reutskaya, chief of the marriage House. She believes that 99 per cent of these marriages bear no sign of false, secrets or money interest, which was frequent in early 90’s.

— I must admit that marriage used to be just an excuse to go abroad, — says Nadezhda Reutskaya. — Some brides declared it transparently: let me just go and I will find somebody better. It was evident there was no true feelings. Just imagine a couple when he is 80 and she is 25! But still they play loving and hold each other’s hands tenderly. They got to know each other only several weeks before in a shopping tour. It’s all different today!
Maximum difference in age is 15 years, which can be considered within European standards. And they get acquainted like civilized people today: at exhibitions, in business trips, at some international events. There is no former urge to grasp a foreigner and come what may! As far as I can see it, today the main reason is reciprocal love.

Life can bring anything. Employees of the marriage House always try to explain this to the bride. First of all, she will be going to a country with a different culture, different mentality. Sometimes the bride feels it in most curious ways literally an hour before the ceremony. Let’s say a Muslim groom is waiting for his bride at the marriage House. While she is waiting for him at home — when is he coming to “buy her out” according to our traditions? Well, according to Muslim traditions bride and groom should not see each other at all till the wedding! But there are more serious things. There is a country about which brides are always particularly cautioned and asked to prove in the written form their familiarity with local legislature. It is Syria, where marriage contracted in Belarus can be annulled.
There have been most peculiar cases of looking for happiness abroad!

Especially distinct are “elderly marriages”. Their stories are so touching, their feelings are so sincere, that marriage House employees are sympathizing with such couples with all their hearts. Take, for example Mary and Lev, both 75. Life separated them, put them on the different sides of the ocean, but in the end love prevailed. Mary came from America, bringing along a carefully selected wedding dress and shoes — and her luggage was lost in the airport! When after all the suitcase was found at the very last moment, the marrieds were about to dance with joy. Nadezhda Reutskaya thought it would be the eldest international couple. This year, however, the record was beaten. The groom was 87 and the bride — 47. And their eyes were not lying…

Hold the woman!

They say dreams about overseas princes take deepest roots in girls that have seen overseas in dreams and movie series only. Moreover, these girls are naive expecting the English to be gentle, the French — to be effervescent and the Germans — to be thrifty. It’s painful to realize afterwards that all princes are only humans not any better than your neighbor next door. I can give as many examples of successful marriages as unlucky ones. On the one hand, there is a story of a widow, mother to two children, who went to Australia to look for happiness. Her Simon promised her peace and comfort. And she turned to live in a wagon and even jostle in shelters for the poor… Will the ideal marriage of 30-years old Nadya outweigh this misfortune? Nadya’s relatives were in horror: “An Arab! Terrible! You are going to be a servant!” Today their son-in-law with hardly pronounceable name is like a real son to them. Conversely, Katya from Minsk was unlucky, having married an Arab: he started with making her wear purdah and finished up with pasting the entrance door with sealing tape. Well, let’s put it differently. Why things like living without friends or washing dishes in still water annoy some fresh foreign wives, and are quite satisfactory to others? Why a Swedish husband spends time and money to cure his alcoholic Russian wife, and his neighbor kicks his wife with a kid out of the house after a year of living together, saying: “I am fed up with supporting you”?

An outer observer will not find answers to these questions because happiness is a very unpredictable thing. Another example: Olga, former “Russian bride” and today wife to an entrepreneur from Japanese town of Imabary. She had been married here and many thought it was a good couple. But the marriage with young handsome and talented man failed, instead she found happiness with an elderly plumpish Japanese entrepreneur. He just worships his Russian wife and treats her like a fragile cup that can break of a careless word. He tells everyone who enters his house: “Look what wonderful wife she is!” And she is going to bring a sackful of rye flour to Japan to show her husband how lovely Belarusian bread is. According to Olga, she agrees with the phrase often met in inquiry forms of matrimonial agencies: “Appearance, age and temper insignificant”. And let love story authors decide what is significant.

A pass to paradise

To marry a foreigner, you will need more papers than usual as such marriages are governed both by national and international laws.

A foreigner must submit an ID (usually a passport registered by internal affairs authority). The passport should be supplemented with an official translation into one of state languages of Belarus.

He/she must also submit a certificate of marriageability issued by competent authority or consulate of his country. This document should also be legalized and translated into Russian, in accordance with established procedure.
Previously married individuals must submit a divorce document — judicial dissolution of marriage, or certificate of death, or, which is rare, certificate of avoidance of the marriage. Again, such documents should be legalized, notarized and translated.

by Marina Poniatovskaya
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