Ukraine, once a part of the former Soviet Union, is a country in Eastern Europe about the size of Texas. The majority of Ukrainians work in low-paying industrial jobs, but the country also has a reputation as the home of many beautiful women. Though men don't feel a pressure to marry at any age, marriage becomes a priority for women around the age of 17. "By the time you are 19, next thing you see is 20 and you're considered an older woman," says Lera, a Ukrainian woman. "By the time you're 25, some doctors will tell you you shouldn't be having a child."

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Lera grew up in a two-bedroom home with her brother and mother in Ukraine. Though her mother is a cardiologist, Lera says she only makes $100 a month and had to work two other jobs to support the family. "I think in America, people expect more happiness. Here, people settle for a lot less," Lera says. "I think Ukraine may get a little bit more advanced, but it will take decades, and I always felt like I just don't have the time to wait for Ukraine to catch up with me."

At 19, Lera decided to post her profile on a mail-order bride website in order to move to the United States. On these sites, men pay thousands of dollars to bring a wife to their county. "For me, it was an arrangement where someone would help me get a visa and perhaps a green card—and a husband comes with the deal," she says.

Unlike some other women on these sites, Lera says she did her best to show her true self in her profile. "I didn't want my profile to scream, 'Buy me,'" she says. "I know it will sound a little cliché, but I wanted someone to like me for me."


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