When volunteers working for a local homeless charity did their usual rounds of the dishevelled street-dwellers at a provincial railway station in Ukraine last week, they were in for a shock. One of the people living at Chernovtsy station brandished a US passport, and began speaking to them in English. It turned out that the man was 53-year-old Cary Dolego, an American who last year stood in elections for Governor of Arizona, and had travelled to Ukraine to meet the love of his life.
Mr Dolego received less than 0.01 percent of the vote when he stood as a Green Party candidate for state governor, and unfortunately his attempts to find love in Ukraine appear to have been equally ill-fated.
Before travelling across the Atlantic, Mr Dolego was featured in a US television show about internet dating and revealed his hope that he would find a wife on his trip. The father of three, who has already been married twice, said he was in contact with a number of Ukrainian women, and was most excited about Yulia, who had sent him racy photographs and poetry.
"The ladies of Ukraine are known for being... uh... Well, they're marriage minded," he said at the time. "They seem to cherish relationships with a deep longing to be in one, and so they're not as apt to leave it, not as apt to walk away from it."
But when Mr Dolego arrived in the city of Odessa, there was no sign of his beloved Yulia, and he apparently moved on to Chernovtsy, near Ukraine's border with Romania, in search of other women he had met over the internet.
His bank account was frozen however, and with no money, he took to living on the streets. The former politician is now recovering in a hospital in Chernovtsy, where he is being treated for pneumonia, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.
Thousands of Western men, mostly from the US, travel to Ukraine every year on specially organised "love tours". Companies organise "socials" involving bikini contests and flirty banter facilitated by translators, where the men are introduced to Ukrainian women, often decades younger than them, keen to marry a foreigner.
Cynics say that the tours are glorified prostitution, with the women mainly from poor backgrounds and looking for a marriage of convenience to enable a quick move abroad.
The "Ukrainian bride" is also a common internet scam, with thousands of men being tricked into sending large sums of money to fictional Ukraine-based women apparently interested in getting to know them. It was not clear whether such a scam was the source of Mr Dolego's money problems, or why his bank account had been frozen.
A video has been released of a dishevelled Mr Dolego perched on his hospital bed, explaining that he was still hoping to get in touch with the love of his life, the elusive Yulia. "She probably wouldn't recognise me, because I have been wearing a very distincfully (sic) different Russian hat," he said, explaining away her no-show.
"I mean, looking at me now, would you recognise me if I looked like this?" he asked the interviewer, donning the black fur hat to demonstrate how hard it would have been for his beloved to locate him.
He finished his interview with a video appeal: "Yulia, I love you dearly, and I am hoping that we can finally make contact."Reuse content