From Russia With Love: Man goes to Russia to help orphans and finds a bride<BR>

Kingman resident Mark Ruthenberg never expected to find the woman of his dreams when he set off on a trip to Russia.

A financial consultant, Ruthenberg had just one thought in mind when he left Kingman for Astrakhan, Russia, in February 1999 - to help children in orphanages there.

"The Russian economy is so bad that many parents have abandoned their own children," Ruthenberg said.

"The children have little to eat and many are ill.

The babies lay in bassinets all day with almost no human contact."

Ruthenberg became familiar with the plight of the Russian people in March 1998 when he was asked to speak at a business school in Stavrapol, and then was moved to tears when the plight of the Astrakhan orphans was aired in the United States as part of a 20/20 television report that November.

It prompted Ruthenberg, who said he had traveled throughout eastern Europe in the early 1970s while a student and worked with U.


Army military intelligence in Russia from 1975 to 1978, to travel to Astrakhan.

Upon arriving, he used the Internet to contact pastors from the orphanages.

Each of the six orphanages holds more than 100 children, he said.

Rutherberg arranged for Pastor Andrew Konovalov and his wife to visit him at his hotel, the only one in the city, on a Saturday evening.

"The problem was that the pastor could not speak English, so he brought someone with him that could speak the language and act as an interpreter - Tanya."

Born Tanya Tskhai, one of many Russian-born Koreans who inhabit Astrakhan, a poor city in the southern part of Russia, she grew up speaking Russian, but had learned English from a missionary.

A student at the Conservatory of Music, she studied voice, hoping to become an opera singer and taught Sunday school.

Acting as his interpreter, Tanya showed Ruthenberg around the orphanages.

"I liked him right away.

Here was an American man from the other side of the Earth, helping the children.

Even the Russians don't care," she said.

Tskhai's parents had three children - a large family by Russian standards, where it is difficult for the average Russian to support children.

The average teacher makes only $40 a month, the average worker in an orphanage, only $5 a month.

"Orphans are virtually ignored.

Many are sick and the children receive no milk or meat for months at a time.

It is a national tragedy," Tanya said.

"Medical help and medicine is available only to those who can afford it.

If you are poor and you get something like cancer, you are out of luck.

The Russian Mafia controls everything, including the food - and the journalists.

There was a famous journalist named Leestev who was writing to expose the Mafia.

But when his small plane was taking off at the airport, it crashed," she said.

Ruthenberg donated two refrigerators, food, clothes books toys and medicine to the orphanages, but his activities were scrutinized.

"Undercover cops were following me around in Russia.

They accused me of being a spy," Ruthenberg said.

But the seeds of love for the orphans, and for Tanya, were planted and Ruthenberg visited Astrakhan again in May 1999 and in February 2000.

Then on April 1, Tanya visited the United States for the first time.

"It is beautiful here, but a lot hotter.

It's interesting how God plans your life," she said.

"I never thought I would be living in the United States."

She added that she is adapting to a different lifestyle here, and has joined the Mohave Community Choir.

Ruthenberg said he couldn't be happier, but one thing the couple do not share is Tanya's taste for kim chi, a Korean dish of fermented cabbage that she still prefers to eat, along with other vegetables.

The couple was legally married on July 25, and will have a more formal religious ceremony at the home of a friend in the Hualapai Mountains, a place Tanya has come to love.

"She goes up on the rocks and starts singing arias.

It's great - her voice wafts over the mountains," Ruthenberg said with a smile.