It's perhaps not the most typical job for a university student: pretending to be the female Ukrainian clients of a matchmaking agency. As Veronika Melkozerova explains for Vice, the then-21-year-old Ukrainian student took the job in 2012 and was given anemic details about two women looking for "Western saviors": 22-year-old dancer Olena and a 34-year-old accountant named Svitlana. She was to chat online with as many men as she could as Olena and Svitlana; those men paid $2 per 10 minutes of chat time. Requests to video chat were obviously turned down, but the purchase of pricey gifts (sold by the agency) was encouraged. The aim was to have the men decide it was love and fly to Ukraine to meet the object of their affection. Melkozerova would be present for the first date to act as a translator.
As for the possibility that the real Olena or Svitlana would think or act differently than Melkozerova did online, she said her boss waved off that concern: "A woman can always say she has changed her beliefs." Melkozerova's tenure with the agency was short. She quickly soured on the exchanges. While she found her Ukrainian female peers to be "strong, independent, and smart," the American men she interacted with saw "Ukrainian women as foreign sex dolls, ready to serve every need of their generous saviors." She was struck by how much more interest there was in Olena due to her age. One 65-year-old California man named Bob put it like so to Svitlana: "Sorry, darling, you are beautiful, but I am looking for a younger woman here." She writes, "I was done with the industry after Bob. Otherwise, I was sure I would be done with men." (Read the fascinating full piece here.)