Ukraine, land of love: the Aussie men on the hunt for romance

In Ukraine, the women outnumber the men by almost 2 to 1. It’s not hard to see why finding a husband for these single women has become a booming industry.

Anna Panasenko works for the matchmaking tour company A Foreign Affair. She believes Ukrainian women make great partners. “They’re not afraid of anything. They just want to find good husbands who [are] going to take care of them. That’s it.”

The services her company provides are proving to be a popular way of meeting a partner too. “We have thousands of marriages, thousands of couples,” Anna tells Sunday Night’s Matt Doran.

Nearly 15 thousand kilometres away in Australia is marine engineer, Cris Challenor. He’s planning his trip to Ukraine, where he hopes Anna will help him meet his future wife. Virtually all Cris’ friends are married with kids – and, at 37, he wants to settle down too.

“I would love to find the right person, settle down and hopefully have kids one day. It would be great.” Cris says. “It just seems like you go down the pub and you don’t really talk to other people. You don’t really go out to meet people any more. You just do it on social media or Tinder, and that’s not really me.”

Meanwhile lawyer Rob Kilgannon is also getting ready to travel to Ukraine. Rob has been single for the past two years after the end of a tempestuous 25-year relationship with a fiery Spanish woman.

“I like clever and funny women, but short temper I can’t deal with.”

Cris and Rob both travel to Odessa, Ukraine’s capital. Over the next ten days, these two Aussies will meet dozens of women in this Black Sea resort town in their search for a new partner.

On the very first night, one of the big social events for our tourists – a dance. There are always interpreters at hand to help bridge the language gap.

The pressure starts to get to Rob. “It was really kind of intense,” he explains. “There is no down time, there is no sort of regathering with your boys down in the corner and [having a] schooner in between.”

Yet at the end of the night, Rob has met a lovely lady named Tatyana.

“It was great,” says Rob. “She came across and said, ‘Do you want to go outside?’ and we just stood against the front of a truck for an hour talking. It was great.”

Cris has made an even bigger impression on the women of Odessa, according to his translator. “Girls say he is the best guy in this party. The most handsome.”

Among those taken by Cris is part-time model Elena. They arrange to meet up at the beach the following day.

“She’s was actually quite a nice girl, well-travelled, quite intelligent, very well-educated,” Cris reveals. “She was easy to talk to. She was outgoing. We had experienced a few things similar and we had a few similar interests, so yeah, the date was really good.”

While Cris is enjoying his time with Elena, Rob has set sail with Tatyana and translator Anna.

“Rob, he’s a really nice and romantic man, as I see,” Anna observes. “Really honest, really open, really easy-going. He has a good heart. He [is] open to everything. The good thing about Rob [is that] he doesn’t have a plan. He just takes it how it comes.”

With only a limited time to find his ideal partner, Cris is moving quickly. After one beach date with 31-year-old Elena, he’s decided he’s ready to meet her mother.

There’s a quick tour of the apartment, before they sit down to a lavish feast, prepared by Elena and her mum, Nadia.

It’s not long before the pleasantries are set aside, and some tough questions from mum come out.

Elena translates for her mother: “She is asking, what can you tell her about your life, what are you doing for a job, and if you are ready for children. Just simple question,” Elena laughs.

Meanwhile Rob is making inroads himself. While Rob got on well with Tatyana, he’s found an even deeper connection with Ludmilla, who he warmed to during a visit to the zoo. Afterwards, they go out for dinner – with their ever-present translator.

Rob feels something special about Ludmilla. “She’s really quite bright and she’s funny and she’s reserved and even-tempered. She has been married twice, but she has been married twice to the same person, so there is a real optimism in her. There is a real hopeful way forward, I think.”

After a hectic week for our foreign tourists looking for love in Ukraine, things are about to get even busier – and more bizarre – with speed dating.

Cris is immersed in a deep and meaningful conversation with Natalia and, of course, their translator.

“There’s a lot of single, beautiful women,” Cris says. “All the young guys at home would be just laughing to come here.”

When the event wraps up, Rob still has eyes for Ludmilla. “She’s stunning. [There’s been] very preliminary conversation about maybe a trip down to Australia to see what we are all about down there.”

For Cris, there’s an unexpected twist. He’s met dozens of beautiful women in the Ukraine, but over the past few days, chemistry has grown between Cris and the tour guide Anna.

“There’s some people that you meet, and then you know there’s just a spark, and the second I met Anna I knew that straight away there was just something between us. [I] felt like I wanted to spend some time with her.”

“There’s definitely a strong connection there, and love’s a very big word, and I’m realistic in the fact that you know we live on opposite sides of the world. We’re definitely going to stay in touch and just see what happens. Long distance relationships do work, so we’ll see if this keeps going.”

Reporter: Matt Doran

Producers: Karen Willing