The Soviet bride safaris: Inside the seedy parties where Western men hunt for impoverished young Russians and Ukrainians to make 'traditional, sexy' wives|
The ratio of women to men can be ten to one, or 'about as close to paradise as you get,' according to a balding Home Counties civil servant on his first visit to Ukraine.
Welcome to the mail-order bride industry in the old Soviet Union, aimed heavily at British and American men who have failed to find love at home.
'A lot of the blokes here think we've died and gone to heaven,' said the tubby 47 year old who works for a Home Office agency as he eyed a gaggle of revealingly dressed young women who would not have seemed out of place on a Parisian catwalk.
Typically men pay between £1,500 and £3,000 to visit several former Soviet cities on tours which are 'designed so that all you have to concern yourself with is meeting as many women as possible.'
Many of the scenes in our pictures are from a 'Romance Tour' to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev but such images are repeated across the old Soviet empire from Volgograd to Veliky Novgorod.
And if Ukraine is known for its basket case economy, the dating market - critics prefer the term 'cattle market' - appears to be thriving, eased in part by far easier visa rules than to Russia, and a number of other former states in the fallen USSR.
The men are promised that, at 'Socials' as in the pictures here, they will be in the company of 'sincere, young, beautiful women who believe in family values'. They are feverishly told to expect to meet 'more beautiful women in 11 days than you will in five years'.
At these occasions, typically some 15 to 25 men will be introduced to 150 to 250 women, often having to communicate via an interpreter. Many of the men are often double the age, or more, of the women.
'Our clients date up to five ladies per day,' boasts the website of 'A Foreign Affair', which offers single Western men tours to a number of locations including Russia and Ukraine.
'The Kiev Romance Tour offers you the unique opportunity to visit one of the most historic cities in all of the former Soviet Union, while at the same time meet thousands of beautiful Ukrainian women,' it states. 'Our Kiev Romance Tours provide you with an extremely effective means to meet as many women as possible so you can find that special one.'
As one site says about the backwater of Poltava: 'Both the city and the women are enjoyable.'Poltava has contributed some of the best Socials our company has ever had the privilege to host. Beautiful Poltava women with their relaxed an easy-going, smaller city attitude help to make our stay one of the most enjoyable two days on any of our exciting single tours.'
The civil servant - like many on such trips he is is keen on retaining his anonymity - told me: 'I've got a failed marriage behind me and several subsequent relationships did not work out.