The big picture: my mum was a mail-order bride

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Diana Markosian captures the dissonance between the California her mother knew from American soap operas and what she found when she arrived

In 1996 Diana Markosian’s mother, Svetlana, decided she had to abandon her life in Moscow. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the collapse of her marriage she had been dreaming of a new start in California, which she mostly knew from the soap opera Santa Barbara. Through an agency, she advertised to be a mail-order bride and, having chosen a new partner, Eli, from a stack of replies, left her home and got on a plane with her two children. Diana was seven years old.

Santa Barbara was not how Svetlana imagined it. And neither was Eli, who was waiting at Los Angeles airport with a bunch of flowers – 20 years older, and a hundred pounds heavier than in the photograph he had sent. They married anyway and lived together for eight years. Diana was asked to call Eli “Dad” and did not see her own father again until she was in her 20s.

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