Wednesday, November 23, 2005

An Honest Woman, a Hospitalized Man: The Story of a Man from Idaho and a Woman from Kherson

Bill Fields’ second wife spent $30,000 on Beanie Babies. But it was what she bought for only a couple hundred dollars – a urinal – that all but ended their marriage. “She wanted me to hang it in the garage," he said, "so I didn’t track dirt into the house when I worked in the yard. I thought, 'Hey, I’m not a dog living here.'”

Not long after this, the lead-in to Bill's second divorce, one of the middle school teacher's friends, himself married to a Muscovite going on ten years, handed him a catalogue advertising "mail-order brides" from the Former Soviet Union. "I took it just kind of like a joke," Bill said. "But finally I decided to join."

The trip he took to Ukraine in early 2005 won’t be found in any marriage agency’s promotional literature. That he felt a strong connection between him and Oksana, the first woman he dated, is front-page copy, but his mugging outside the Odessa Opera House, a grand baroque building designed by Viennese architects in the late 19th century, that's not something shadow-boxed beside a smiling wedding photo on a testimonials page.

But despite all the trouble he experienced, the bad didn't erase the good. When Bill found himself in bed with broken femur, looking at six weeks of hospitalization at $450 a day if his insurance didn't come through and get him out of there, he “found out what kind of woman" his new girlfriend was.

His second wife, he said, would’ve “come in and said, ‘You’re breathing, I’m going shopping.’” But Oksana stayed with him the whole time, bargaining with the hospital, raising her voice when needed, getting their prices down from outrageous to maybe just bad. He was already infatuated, now he was impressed.

“She’s not a drop-dead ‘ten,’” he said when first describing her, “but she’s pretty and she’s honest.”

That honesty was such that Bill trusted her with all the money he’d brought over, and the money his family wired from the United States to cover his initial hospital bills. In all, $3,500 passed through her hands before his insurers, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, agreed to send in a Lear Jet to transport Bill to their nearest participating hospital, in Wellington, England.

“It was one of the saddest moments in my life,” he said. “They wouldn’t let her (Oksana) ride in the ambulance with me to the plane. They physically had to pull her away, she was holding on so tight.”

It continued just like a familiar movie. As Bill was driven away from the last check-point, Oksana approached from behind, a fence swinging shut between her and the ambulance.

For Bill, who now has a plate in his right side that’s held in place by two pins and four screws, this was just more evidence that there was “none of this you-have-to-chase-them-down” with Ukrainian women. “She’s with me, and I’m with her,” he said.
It was better than what he remembered with his second wife, that’s for sure, who was a bit of a “women’s libber,” as naturally aggressive as Oksana was polite. “The part I couldn’t accept,” he said, “was her always saying I couldn’t do right.”

So yes, everything about Oksana was a wonder and a revelation – even how she’d traipse around his apartment in barely anything at all, not flaunting her body, he said, but not showing it any shame either.

While Bill recovered from his injuries near his family in rural North Carolina, the phone calls and emails continued to Ukraine, so much so that he even checked with the local community college to see if it might be able to arrange for Oksana’s 18-year-old son to come to the country on a student visa, if and when he and her mother got married.

As for why she didn’t meet him in Odessa when he came back for his second visit in November 2005, that he can’t explain. But that’s not to say he didn’t enjoy himself again, in however a round-a-bout way. He’d rented a cell-phone, after all, and in Ukraine, perhaps moreso than in any other country in the world, love or something like it can start with something as simple as a misdialed call.

Bill’s story continues here.