"My friends were playing on the Internet and joked about my needing to find a girlfriend," said Paynesville native Brett Deadrick.
A native of Paynesville, Deadrick was attending St. Cloud State University in 1998, when he started corresponding with Anna in Russia.
Anna was lucky to be on the Internet at all. After her business crashed, Anna's employer in Russia was unable to pay Anna for her work. Anna's employer placed her profile on an American singles website in return for her help. Anna was a student in the foreign language at Kurgan University. Kurgan is located in central Russia, about 1,000 miles east of Moscow.
"Not everybody has a computer," she explained. Her parent's only access to a computer is at the nearest post office.
Brett's friends saw Anna's profile and dared Brett to write. "To appease my friends, I wrote Anna a general letter," he said.
"I found his letter interesting compared to the others I had received," Anna said. The other letters were short. Brett's was two pages long.
"The way he wrote was nice, intelligent, and we liked many of the same things such as camp counseling," she said.
The two traded e-mails. "I found it flattering that he knew about things in Russia. We could talk about politics," Anna said.
Attempting to meet
Brett entered the Navy and the two kept communicating through the Internet. After boot camp, they e-mailed each other daily.
Brett put in a request for leave so he could meet Anna in Russia, but his timing wasn't good. With air strikes over Kosovo, the Navy did not think it safe for a U.S. citizen to visit.
When the situation in Kosovo calmed down, Brett applied again for leave. This time fighting in Chechnya broke out and his leave was denied again.
So Anna tried to obtain a visa to come to the United States to meet Brett, but she also encountered difficulty.
American officials kept asking about Anna's background. Anna was now working for a defense factory translating manuals and magazines. Her parents were professors and worked at the Russian Air Force Academy.
The Russian Embassy approved her visa; however, the American Embassy did not. American officials kept telling Anna she needed to meet Brett first before she could get a visa. They suggested the couple could meet in Europe.
In the meantime, Anna and Brett kept corresponding, sending each other home videos and photographs. Without ever meeting face to face the two knew they wanted to spend their lives together. They felt they had a lot in common and decided to get married. Brett proposed over the Internet.
Anna had a hard time convincing the American embassy and immigration that they were going to get married, even though they had never met. After two years of corresponding and six months of trying to obtain a visa, Anna was finally allowed to come to the United States on a fianceŽ visa.
She arrived in Maryland in February. Within a month, the couple was married by a justice of the peace at the Rockville County Courthouse in Maryland.
Wanting to maintain her family ties, Anna e-mails her family every other day. Her parents do not have a computer and need to go to the post office or to her uncle's home to check the e-mail. The family tries to coordinate their visits to Anna's grandmother, where they can receive phone calls from Anna.
Anna can now stay in this country as a conditional resident. After two years, she will be allowed to leave the country. If she tried leaving now, she would not be allowed to return.
Brett and Anna have filed for a special permit to allow them to go to Russia this summer. Her younger sister is graduating from high school, and her parents would like to meet Brett.
In two years, Anna is eligible for a green card from immigration. During her third year of residency, she can apply for citizenship.
Life in the United States
Upon her arrival in the United States, Anna had a lot of adjustments to make. Anna had never seen such diversity in nationalities except on television. She also encountered people with blue hair and body piercing. She found herself staring at them in Washington, D.C.
Her first trip to a grocery store left her in awe. There were so many different foods to choose from. She had never seen so many different kinds of oil or bread to buy.
Anna admits she has a lot to get used to. For example, the bread in Russia is course, dark, and chewy. Anna described the white bread in America as fluff. After searching, she found a seven grain bread which is similar to what is made in Russia.
Anna is also not accustomed to our washing machines. In Russia she used a washboard. Brett and Anna searched stores for a washboard but did not find one. The only washboard she found was in the history display at the Smithsonian Institute.
Home for holidays
Brett brought Anna home to his parents, Steve and Carolyn, for Christmas.
The Christmas holiday is a new experience for Anna. In Russia they only celebrate a holiday on Jan. 7 with Father Frost and the Snow Maiden. The holiday has no religious background.
When Anna grew up, there were no churches in the Soviet Union. One church was turned into a warehouse, and only now it is being restored.
Brett took Anna to the high school and around Lake Koronis. Anna had never seen a fish house before. In Russia people sit in the open wearing special clothing for warmth. Some fishermen wrap plastic tents around them to shield against the wind, Anna said.
Anna said the countryside around Paynesville, with its trees and fields, is very much like home. She is enjoying the snow, since Washington, D.C. doesn't have any. "It melts as fast as it falls," she explained of the snow there.
Anna also enjoys the clean air around Paynesville. In Washington, everything smells like gas because there are so many cars, she said.
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