World Wide Wed
By ROBERT KING, Times Staff Writer
SPRING HILL -- Jerry Young wanted a wife, but was having no luck finding one in Spring Hill.
Inessa Kosocheva wanted a husband, but was having no luck finding one in Siberia.
So, they each turned to an Internet dating service that connects Russian women to Western men. Among the lonely hearts in cyberspace, they found each other.
And today they are getting married.
Jerry, 47, is a custodian at Springstead High School who began searching for new love after sitting idle for two years following his divorce. Generally speaking, he is soft-spoken and not given to acting rashly.
Inessa, 26, is a former shop clerk who grew tired of boorish Russian men who weren't very nice. She has bright orange hair and a face that glows. She doesn't know very much English, but she seems like a person who would have a lot to say if she did.
That the two of them will be wed this Easter day is testimony to two people who were willing to take a risk for love, and who were willing to use a computer to find it.
"I guess I'm surprised that it worked out," Jerry said recently from the couch in his living room, where Inessa sat clasping his hand tightly and looking at him with love-struck eyes.
Jerry began his search for a new relationship the old-fashioned way. But he found that the pickings were slim in Spring Hill for a divorced man in his mid 40s.
He turned to Internet dating services with a more regional focus. As he kept running into dead ends, he began broadening his search, first to other parts of Florida, then to other parts of the country.
Finally, he went global.
He found Inessa through a Web site called AbsoluteRussianGirls.com.
On its face, the site sounds like it might offer some questionable content. But, in truth, it is a simple roster of Russian women who are looking for Western men. They are divided into age groups. For each woman, there are a couple of pictures, a brief biography and various vital statistics: age, height, weight, eye color and education level, among others. For $29.95, inquiring men can get e-mail addresses and phone numbers to make contact.
The site's purpose is clear from the outset:
"These beautiful women are well educated and seek men who are 10 to 15 years older than they are. They believe that older men are more mature, stable, supportive and reliable for providing a strong foundation to build a lasting relationship on."
It goes on to say that there is a short supply of good Russian men available for marriage. The reason: Men die young in Russia, and those who are living often cannot support a family.
"Western men have a reputation for treating their wives and family very well; they are viewed as being more loyal, reliable, sober and intelligent than most Russian men," the site says.
Jerry and Inessa made contact through the site about a year and a half ago. They began exchanging e-mails, letters and phone calls. He thought she was pretty. She thought he was handsome.
Eventually, their mutual interest grew until Jerry decided to step out and do the craziest thing he has ever done in his life: He got on a plane and headed to Siberia to meet a girl he hoped to make his bride.
"Mom thought I had completely gone nuts," Young said. "To her, Russia meant the KGB and the gulags."
Indeed, his mom, Jeanne Young of Clover Leaf Farms in Brooksville, thought her son had taken leave of his senses.
"I said, 'Oh, Jerry, are you sure you want to do that?' " she recalls. "But he just does what he wants to. He just seemed positive all the time. You couldn't sway him."
It's not that Jerry was throwing caution to the wind. He knew it was possible that Inessa might look nothing like the pretty girl in the picture, or that they wouldn't hit it off. But after reasoning things out, Jerry judged it a risk worth taking.
"I figured if it didn't work out, at least it would be a vacation for me," he said. "But Siberia in the middle of winter isn't a great vacation."
After a long journey across an ocean and a frozen continent, Jerry arrived in Inessa's hometown of Krasnoyarsk in March 2002. It was 32 degrees outside, but he hadn't come for the weather.
Immediately, Jerry saw that Inessa was as pretty as her pictures. She liked what she saw, too. More important, they made a personal connection, despite the language barrier.
On his first day in Siberia, Jerry proposed. Inessa accepted.
After a week, Jerry left Russia and his new fiancee behind. He spent most of the next year helping her arrange a visa so she could come to America. He got a new job at Springstead. He bought a house.
When Inessa arrived in Spring Hill in February, she became an instant hit with her soon-to-be mother-in-law.
"I think it's great," Mrs. Young said. "She's such a sweet little girl. They seem so compatible, like they've known each other for a while."
Already, Inessa has come to appreciate the Florida climate and its beaches. She is not too fond of American food. But she has been cooking borscht and other Russian specialties that Jerry seems to enjoy.
Communicating is still somewhat difficult.
Jerry knows very little Russian. Inessa took English classes in school but struggles with American accents. In a pinch, they put their thoughts in writing, which seems to help. Their body language communicates a lot, mainly affection.
Jerry's sister, Julie, a local real estate agent, doesn't think communication will be a significant hurdle for the new couple.
"She probably understands more than she can verbalize. She is very intelligent. She has a (teaching) degree. I think she will learn our language before we learn hers," Julie said.
Today's ceremony will be conducted from the back porch of Julie's house on Emerson Street.
Julie, a notary public, will also preside over the ceremony. And somewhere during the day, she and her mother will serve up a combination Easter dinner and wedding supper.
Jerry traveled to Russia to find love. But he says he has also found direction. After marrying, Inessa will apply for a green card to allow her to stay in the United States. Eventually, she will seek citizenship. Both Jerry and Inessa want to have children. And he is convinced that not even a language barrier will prevent them from finding happiness.
"If we're trying to say something and we can't understand, we'll just forget about it," Jerry said. "It probably wasn't that important anyway."
-- Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to email@example.com
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111