Although globalisation has done a remarkable job of levelling cross-cultural differences, some countries—and not just North Korea—still stand apart from the rest, enclosed in their own unique bubbles. Ukraine, Russia’s bitch for centuries and a still-struggling post-Communist country, ranks high among them. Although the largest country in Europe, it is not a member of the European Union and its citizens have no visa-free travel privileges to the Schengen Zone. Getting a visa to Europe is a major hassle for them. (I’m sure Indians can empathise with that.) It is also among the poorest countries in Europe, ranking above Moldova and Albania, with a per capita GDP of just $6,000, still more than twice of India’s.
Yet, incredibly, Ukraine boasts a higher concentration of hot girls per capita than anyplace else in the world. This is not an opinion; it’s a fact. Visit Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, once, and if you’re even a wee bit of a womaniser, your life will change forever. I’m not kidding. I’ve seen it happen to various friends from across the world, America and western Europe included. For a poor, obscure nation like Ukraine, on the edges of Europe, to have such an abundance of gorgeous women is like diamond mines being discovered in some godforsaken African country. What happens? Blood Diamond. Not quite, but similar.
Given the relentless logic of capitalism, an industry has already sprung up to monetise the country’s unique, ahem, natural resources. There are hundreds of marriage agencies offering Ukrainian ‘mail order’ brides to older Westerners, frustrated by their bleak sexual prospects in the West. (Fans of angst-ridden French writer Michel Houellebecq shouldn’t be surprised by this.)
Massage parlours, brothels, strip bars and other dens of iniquity have turned Kiev into a low-key version of Bangkok. Meanwhile, the city’s glamorous nightspots are packed with jetsetting Europeans and Americans hoping to snag a model-like babe and throw their single friends back home into a jealous rage. It’s all a bit like Moscow in the 1990s, when the city was relatively poor and undiscovered, and Russian girls weren’t yet the rage they are now.
It’s insane. It’s a pink gold rush as my mates from the States call it. Fine. Great, you say. What next? What’s more interesting, though, is how this global craving for hot Russian girls has transformed the mentality of your average Ukrainian girl. What does it do to the psyche of a gorgeous girl when she realises that her beauty is more valuable than anything else she possesses? And when she realises that lovely as she is, there are thousands upon thousands of girls just like her—sexy, starved to perfection, and waiting for a prince to rescue them from penury? Dear reader, what would you do in her situation?
Incredibly, a good 30 per cent (about as high a percentage of the population as those who oppose the Free Market in the US) resist the temptation, focus on their normal lives and careers, and seek men who love them for themselves and not their beauty. The majority, though, can’t resist the cash-cow potential of their beauty and throw themselves completely into the game. Refusing to eat anything other than sushi, salads and fresh juices, they prime their toned bodies to model-like perfection, while spending their remaining cash on expensive clothes and accessories that’ll make them even more beautiful. Some even splurge on breast enhancement, botox for lips, and other plastic surgeries to enhance their chances of snagging a local oligarch or a rich foreigner.
In this hyper-competitive, alternative reality world, 36-year-old local TV show host Koolbaba—who looks more like a transsexual than a woman after all her various operations—is a role model. Coming to Kiev from the provinces, she married a rich older man in his fifties, when 18, and then dumped him—after sucking him dry—for a member of parliament a few years later. Now she’s a celebrity in her own right and has numerous wealthy lovers, who all supposedly treat her as their own personal Marilyn Monroe. While we might find her gross, she’s the gold-digger’s poster girl. She monetised her beauty young by marrying a much older man, rightly dumped him later for a more influential partner, and has now earned her independence. Not to mention that they’re all in awe of her XXL breasts, perfect butt and blowjob lips.
Hanging with gold-diggers, as I do quite often, can be quite disorienting, even depressing at times. Money, money, money, it makes your head spin. (It’s the inverse of the famous Dire Straits track, ‘Money for nothin, and your chicks for free’.) Yet, when you understand their logic, and realise that most of them have so few options, you learn to sympathise somewhat, and enjoy watching the game at the very least.
My girlfriend’s best friend, Tsusha, 24, is a good example. A university graduate, she moved to Kiev last year in search of a better career, and had a respectable job for a while as an assistant manager at a local travel agency. However, she was paid just $500 a month, had to work 12-hour shifts, and had an evil boss who openly propositioned her.
Last year, she met a rich American in his forties while out clubbing, and he immediately took it upon himself to spoil her to death. Gifting her an iPhone on their second date, he took her on foreign holidays, paid for her living expenses, and bought her over 30 pairs of designer shoes. In six months. Though their relationship didn’t work out (incredibly, he dumped her for someone even hotter), she’d now rather live off rich men than work long hours for a meagre living. Understandable, innit? All her hopes are pinned on finding a wealthy husband, or at least a rich married man.
Though tall, slim and blonde, with blue eyes and a glamorous face that reminds some of Sharon Stone, she’s 24, and her time is running out.
Meanwhile, younger, sexier, hungrier girls are swarming into Kiev every day from the provinces, hoping to strike it big with the city’s night-clubbing jackpot. Time is running out, and Tsusha is becoming more manic every week, going on new diets, trying out yoga to improve her skin tone, learning French to snag a European, and so on.
Like a good Indian, I give her the advice of an ancient country. Choose money over passion, future over present, and secure a Western passport to ensure yourself a stable, prosperous and happy life. And, if everything goes to hell in a hand-basket, you can always move to India when you’re 30, and still be a good catch for most men there. She likes that. She thinks Indians are smart. Aren’t we the original gold-diggers?
The author, formerly editor-in-chief of Russian Playboy, is BigBeast and Chief Pusher at B.East magazine