Half a world away, a 50-year-old New Yorker named Steve found himself lonely and looking for someone to talk to after September 11. "Lower Manhattan was just completely traumatized," he says. "I think people had a different take on life and relationships because of how tenuous they saw life was."
Steve posted his profile on a mail-order bride site and connected with Lera. They began emailing every day. "I got Lera's email and it rang so genuine. It was so different. The other ones sounded coached and stiff, and Lera sounded like it could be somebody down the block or across the hall."
After three months, Steve visited Lera in Kiev. "The moment I walked off the plane, it turned into something more," he says. "I was already in love with her. I didn't know her, but I felt like I knew her all my life."
A courtship began. "Unlike other mail-order bride stories, Steve legitimately dated me for many, many months," Lera says. "He came to see me in Kiev. We traveled together."
In 2004, Steve and Lera married just two days after she arrived in the United States. Though they don't consider their union traditional, they say they are in love and happily married. "Suddenly I had this man in my life. Not like a boy," she says. "It was something I really wanted, and suddenly it magically appeared in front of me."