To whom it may concern:
My name is Robert Maagdenberg and this is the story of my relationship with Tanya
Maagdenberg (soon to be Tanya Popova). This story was written in the hope that no
other American man has to endure what I endured for my soon to be ex-wife. This
story was written as a lesson to American men to avoid marrying Russian (ex.
Soviet) women on a finance visa.
I. Meeting and Marriage (1998-1999)
I met my wife in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1998 while traveling for a medical
equipment corporation. Prior to going over to Russia a pen pal that I was writing to
for a while suggested that I write a letter to put into a local newspaper requesting to
meet a Russian female and I complied. It was no different than putting a personals
ad in a local newspaper here in the United States.
When I arrived in Russia in June 1998, I met this pen pal only once at the St.
Petersburg hotel. While there she gave me a list of women who responded to the ad.
Out of all of them I picked Tanya out of the group that wrote to me. The following
day I called her home and her sister and I arrived for Tanya to meet me at the St.
Petersburg hotel the following day at 7:00 pm that is close to where I was staying.
At the time I was surprised how conversant her sister was in English to make such
an arrangement possible.
The following day Tanya and I met at the St. Petersburg hotel. It was an awkward
meeting at first but we managed to communicate with me knowing some words in
Russian and her knowing some words in English. We traveled to downtown St.
Petersburg for dinner and afterward she invited me to meet her sister at their
apartment. Her sister and I (and to a lesser extent Tanya) talked for 3 hours and
they insisted that I stay overnight since it was getting late. After we concluded the
date, I promised to write to her when I got back to America.
After arriving back to the United States and in the subsequent year, I wrote to Tanya
several times and she responded in kind immediately. We corresponded for one year
every day via the Internet and fell in love (or least I thought). After much discussion
she requested a finance visa as that was the only way she was able to get into the
country legally given her Russian citizenship status. For those who don’t know the
INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) sets strict guidelines for foreign women
entering this country on a finance visa. They must marry their spouse within 3
months (90 days) or they are forced to go back to their country and not be able to
return within 5 years. Given the fact that I was in love with this person and wanted
to see her again I took the chance.
In June, 1999 she came to this country on a finance visa. Over the next 3 months,
we got to know one another and I fell in love. I got to know her as best I could given
my circumstances with her and the situation the INS put us in. I introduced her to all
of my friends and family and asked them their honest opinion. We got along
wonderfully and she was very sweet when I first met her. She and I would tell each
other about our lives and background (her father died when she was 5 years old for
example). Since I came from a socially conservative background, I thought this
would last forever. I proposed to her in late July, 1999 and our wedding was
planned for late August, 1999. On August 27, 1999 we were married in San
Francisco. It was a small ceremony at City Hall and had a small reception of my
closet friends and family.
II. Marriage Life and Support for Medical License (1999-2002)
The following 3 years I not only supported my new wife in terms of her living
expenses in the United States (food, car, clothes, $10,000-$15,000 worth of dental
work, etc.) but I provided over $28,000-$30,000 worth of educational support for
her to pursue becoming a licensed practicing OBGYN doctor in the United States
which was her dream when she came to the United States back in June, 1999. The
support was not only limited to financial but also I provided her career support by
writing her letters of recommendation (the fellow Russian physicians she worked for
or got to know on a friendship basis either wouldn’t write or did not know how to
write) as well as wrote for her personal statements that were required to get into
residency. Other documents that I wrote for her to get her into residency / job
experience included her resume, introductory resume letters, letters to physicians
inquiring about job prospects. Last but not least my family and I greatly helped
Tanya with getting an interview with Dr. Duzin at Stanford who has heading up a
research project and the department head of the OBGYN department at Stanford. At
the time he was an associate of my mom’s gynecologist in Berkeley, CA.
After successfully passing the various exams to qualify for residency and obtaining
strong work experience to put on her resume, Tanya was ready to apply for
residency. She underwent considerable travel throughout the United States to
interview for residency and was finally accepted at UMDNJ (University of Medicine
and Dentistry of New Jersey). As with other responsibilities in our marriage it was
also my job to help transport her 3,000 miles across the country to get her settled in
New Jersey for her to start residency. In June 2002 I took it upon myself to not only
move her but also make all the financial, logistic and operational arrangements for
her to properly settle in Northern New Jersey before she started residency. This
experience was extremely stressful for the move was entirely on my shoulders.
III. Residency and the Death of Her Mother (2002-2003)
From June 2002 to September, 2003 we lived apart--I on the West Coast and her on
the East Coast. I spent considerable money flying back and forth to visit her as often
as possible. We had to do this mainly for financial reasons. I had to stay behind
because I had a good job in Silicon Valley that allowed me to pay off the debt I
incurred for the educational and moving expenses I incurred.
In July, 2003 her mother died. This affected her profoundly and had a direct impact
on our marriage and our future. Her mom had come out to visit us for the wedding in
1999 and the impression I got of her was that she and Tanya were close. Tanya had
a hard time dealing with the death of her mother and the death affected our
marriage in profound ways. Shortly after the death Tanya blamed me for not
allowing her to visit her mother even thought I paid for 2 tips (December, 2000 and
May, 2002) for her to visit her family which she went each time for over a month. In
addition, I paid for her trip to fly back to Russia for the funeral.
Shortly after the death of her mother, Tanya called every day at work and she was
always in tears—I was personally blamed for her death and she told me repeatedly
that I didn’t allow her to visit her mother in Russia more often. This was all not true
of course. This profoundly affected me because I did everything I could to show her I
was supported of her and her family and allowed her to visit Russia as often she
needed to. I started to resent her for these accusations and her attitude toward me.
If I recall her mother was very ill months before she went to LA with me on vacation
in July, 2003. She knew this and instead decided not visit her mother but travel with
me on vacation in LA. The day she arrived back to New Jersey from the vacation her
mother died. She apparently experienced incredible guilt for this. In addition her
sister bore the responsibility of taking care of her mother before the death and told
her how she really wanted Tanya to have children. It apparently was one of the last
wishes of her mother. From that point forward, Tanya was determined to have
children and as soon as possible.
IV. Residency, Twins and the Death of the Marriage (2003-2006)
By September 2003 Tanya was demanding that I quit my job, leave my family and
friends and move out to New Jersey to resume living together and have children. In
November 2003 Tanya and I went through IVF treatments because previously I had
low sperm count and couldn’t conceive with my wife without medicine. Immediately
upon IVF treatments Tanya became pregnant.
In November 2003 I packed up my things and decided to drive out to New Jersey to
be with my wife. I arrived in New Jersey and started to settle in her apartment and
started to look for a job. I noticed immediately that our relationship was difficult and
that she was still dealing with a lot of issues surrounding the death of her mother.
While dealing with some difficulties in our marriage (her attitude) I decided to look
for a job and begin my new life in New Jersey. After months of failing to find one, I
decided to be a stay home dad and take care of pregnant wife while she was
pregnant and working graveyard residency rotation. I did everything for her—cooked
her meals, cleaned the house, worked on a small home business and tried to deal
with her issues surrounding her mother’s death, which was still lingering. These were
very stressful times indeed for me and I did the best I could under these stressful
On June 25, 2004 she gave birth to twins—one boy and one girl. For the next two
years, I took care of these twins 85% of the time by myself. Only toward the last 7
months did I get some help (2 hours a day at most) to go swimming to get some
rest at a local Starbucks. One can imagine this was a stressful period for us but
particularly for me as I had no friends and was raising two children nearly by myself.
On top of this my son in June 2005 was given a diagnosis of autism. I had to quickly
get him social services to help him. So not only was I dealing with raising two
children but I was also dealing with raising a special needs child.
During this time I also had a small internet business to work on. I needed to do this
because it paid for my expenses while I was living in New Jersey. My wife paid for
the rent and provided me with health insurance but that was about it. I had to pay
for my car insurance, food, clothing, business and other personal expenses I incurred
during these two years. Unlike what I provided her when I was supporting her she
would only provide room and board but because I was a man, it was my
responsibility to provide for myself. It didn’t matter that I gave up my job for her or
that I was the stay home dad. That didn’t matter at all to her.
In October 2005 she started looking for post residency positions in California because
I wanted to return to the place of my birth, my family, etc. and she promised me
that when she completed residency, we would return to California. By June 2006 she
had found a position in Sacramento California starting at $215,000 plus a $10,000
sign on bonus. During these months I helped her write letters to doctors and
supported her pursuit of the most lucrative job available in the market.
Shortly after arriving to Sacramento and starting at Capital OBGYN in August she
announced that she wanted a divorce. She announced this on September 25, 2006.
Here are the highlights of the support I provided her:
approx. $30,000 in educational/moving related expenses
approx. $10,000 in dental expenses incurred (1999-2003)
gave up my $90,000 job at Seagate to move to New Jersey to be a stay home
father of twins for 2 years
supported her for 3 years (1999-2002) completely while she was studying for
her residency entrance exams
spent countless hours helping her write her letters of recommendation,
personal statements, resumes and letters to physicians requesting help to get
her resume sufficient to apply for residency
spent $4,000+ in travel expenses for her to fly to Russia to visit her family
gave up countless weekends without my wife while she studied for her
residency exams (Step 1, Step 2, etc.)
worked endlessly to getting social services both in New Jersey and California
for my son John who was diagnosed with autism and PDD/NOS respectively.