Cary Dolego came to Ukraine as a man on a mission.
Like a modern-day Don Quixote, the twice-divorced 53-year old -- a 2010 Green Party write-in candidate for Arizona governor -- was in search of a damsel to wed, and he was willing to go far afield to make it happen.
When he set out for Ukraine earlier this year, he had his sights set on a woman named Yulia, with whom Dolego says he exchanged poetry online. In an August interview with ABC News' "Nightline,"
Dolego told of his hopes for a quick romance and marriage with Yulia.
The world had other plans for Dolego. Far from meeting the woman of his dreams, Dolego recently turned up among a group of homeless men in the Ukrainian border town of Chernivtsi. He was discovered by volunteer aid workers, whom Dolego surprised by pulling out an American passport and notebook computer from his travel bags.
Dolego's subsequent hospitalization for pneumonia attracted the attention of local media. His tale has set off a media frenzy in Ukraine and Russia. "U.S. Politician Mistaken For Ukrainian Bum,"
a November 15 story in the English-language "Moscow Times" declared. "Romantic American stranded among Ukrainian homeless"
came the headline from Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
It initially appeared that his miserable circumstances had not dimmed Dolego's ardor in the least. A YouTube video (below) from his hospital bed showed him enthusiastically insisting that he would stick around in Ukraine until he met up with Yulia.
"Yulia, I love you dearly, and I'm hoping we can finally make contact," Dolego says with a broad smile.
Reality has since set in. In a video interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda,"
Dolego expressed his disillusionment with his would-be partner. "[Yulia] said she had a chance to review my letters, and she'd like to continue to see me," Dolego said.
Now it has become clear to Dolego that the object of his affections was not, in fact, reviewing his letters. "There was someone else that was responding to these e-mails," Dolego said. "It was evidently a man responding for her."
Indeed, Dolego has now soured on the whole idea of the mail-order-bride business, telling reporters, "I think that it's not a good idea for two people, when they meet and when they do marry, for one of them to say: 'Now that we're married, let's go 10,000 miles back to a place where you do not know, and leave a place where you do know where you have friends and family, school, jobs, and everything else. Leave everything you know that's precious.'"
"It's strange only because American men come over here and they like to take the women away from the country," Dolego said.
The Arizonan, who claims to be of Polish descent, vows that he would be happy to stick around after meeting a prospective wife. "I love the Ukraine. I don't have a problem with it at all," he said.
Noting that his Ukrainian visa had expired, Dolego hopes to return to the United States before applying for another visa to find a bride. "I have a sponsor for sure in the shelter. They said they'd hire me," he said.
RFE/RL's Kathleen Moore has reported
on international efforts to regulate the online mail-order-bride industry, which critics say leaves women -- and some men -- open to exploitation and abuse. Up-to-date statistics on the industry are hard to come by, but U.S. immigration authorities estimated
in 1999 that agencies arranged between 4,000 and 6,000 marriages annually for American men and foreign wives, mostly from the Philippines and the former Soviet Union.
-- Charles Dameron