Chita: A Prediction Involving a Spanish Man

In late August, a few days before launching this trip, I learned that the couple we'd stayed with in Chita in 1995 had moved to St. Petersburg. So I stopped by their apartment there to get the scoop. Now that David and I are in Chita, I'm filing that update -- which definitely has a few surprises.

Natasha and Sergei ran a musical instruments store in Chita. They now live in St. Petersburg. (Lisa Dickey)

First, Natasha and Sergei. Two months after we met them in 1995, they took their first trip to China. With travel and customs restrictions relaxing, they decided to start a business selling musical instruments they'd buy in China and bring back to Russia. For the next several years, they did that, running a store called "Yes" on Chita's Lenin Street -- until their business came to end for reasons they preferred not to talk about. In 2004, they moved to St. Petersburg.

Their daughter, Katya, was 15 when we met her, but she was pretty specific about what she wanted out of life. Here's what she told us in 1995:

"I like men with dark hair and dark skin, especially if they have blue eyes. It's my dream to move to Spain -- such good-looking men there, and the culture and language are so beautiful and passionate.

"Some people say they can never leave Russia, since it's the place they were born. But I am not a patriot like that... Some people in this world live, and others merely exist. Here in Russia I only exist. I want to live."

When Katya was 15 she said she dreamed of one day meeting a Spanish man. Six years later she married Antoine, a Spaniard. Here they are at their wedding in 2001. (Photo of photo by Lisa Dickey)

So, where is Katya today? She's married to -- wait for it -- a Spaniard! And she lives with him and their three-year-old daughter in a French village not far from the Spanish border. Katya met Antoine, a Spaniard who grew up in France, in April 2001 through a matchmaking agency. She went to France on a 3-month visa in November 2001, and a month later they were married.

When I heard this news, I could hardly believe it. I asked Natasha and Sergei if they knew what their daughter had told us in 1995, and they didn't. When I read them her comments, they were shocked. Did she really know so specifically at age 15 how she wanted her life to play out? I called Katya in France to ask her.

"From age 13, I knew I wanted to marry a foreigner," she said. "I thought it would be someone English-speaking, as I was studying English. When I told you I liked Spanish men, it was really because in Chita, at that time, the idea of a Spanish man was pretty exotic.

Richie the bulldog. (Lisa Dickey)

"I didn't know how it might happen, but I believed it would," she said. "It wasn't a dream. It was a desire."

In St. Petersburg, I also got an update on the fourth member of the family, Teddy the bulldog. Sadly, Teddy died in 1998 after an illness, and Natasha and Sergei still get choked up talking about it. They've got a new bulldog, Richie, but as they told me, "He didn't take Teddy's place. No one could take Teddy's place."

Tomorrow: David and I suddenly become celebrities in Chita.

By Lisa Dickey |  September 20, 2005; 5:13 AM ET
Previous: The Truth About Gary | Next: Chita: Fifteen More Minutes of Fame


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Biggest congratulations to Katya on her marriage! I hope it turns out to be everything they both want it to be, and more. The internet bride business is a big one in the ex-USSR. I know a lot of Westerners say there's no romance in--or hope--for such marriages. Clearly at least one woman disagrees. Do you two get a sense of how women out there feel about it? Provincial Russia certainly isn't paradise, and maybe provincial Russian men aren't knights on white horses, but what makes those women more willing (and in Katya's case, determined) than others in the world to leave everything behind? It seems particularly odd in the context of your travels, which seem pretty conclusive that things are getting better!

Posted by: Mark | September 20, 2005 11:08 PM

To be fair to "Provincial Russia:" it does have its charm. While it is true that, after 10 years in Vancouver, I would be hard pressed to give up the daily comforts I now take for granted; life in Siberia was not all "toil and trouble." There are moments to be remembered with fondness.


Posted by: Artem K. Khamzin | September 21, 2005 01:16 PM

Very true, Artem. I think Lisa's writing and Gary's photos have proven your point emphatically. Also, let me add that even my original comment wasn't very accurate since the single biggest category in Internet bride sites is usually "Moscow". My apologies.

Posted by: Mark | September 21, 2005 09:38 PM

Two quick comments -- first, I think weather would be one factor for those who prefer to live elsewhere. For most people, winter in the south of France probably compares pretty favorably to winter in Siberia, though even that has its charms as well.
Second, thank you Mark for your compliments on the photos -- but they're David's, not Gary's! (I've managed to go three weeks so far not calling David "Gary" by mistake -- or at least, not to his face!).

Posted by: Lisa Dickey | September 21, 2005 10:20 PM

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