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Ann Arbor author recounts strange Ukraine adventure

R.J. Fox has written of his trip to Ukraine to propose marriage to a woman he had only met once in "Love and Vodka." We talk with him about the experience.

Film and literature are full of stories with people doing crazy things for love. Romeo and Juliet sacrificed their family loyalty and their lives. Jack froze to death rescuing Rose as the Titanic sank into the icy Atlantic. And Ann Arbor-based writer R.J. Fox boarded a plane to Ukraine to propose to a woman he had met only once.

Fox details his journey in his recent memoir "Love and Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine."

Current State speaks with R.J. Fox about his travels in Ukraine.

That adventure started while attending a screenwriting seminar at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Fox says he spotted a young woman by herself and approached her to make conversation.

“There was nothing romantic about those first twenty minutes,” says Fox, but they exchanged contact information and began a friendship that would soon turn into something more.

The two stayed in touch as pen pals for the next year. Eventually Fox found himself buying an engagement ring and a plane ticket to visit his newfound love in Ukraine.

Ring in pocket, Fox was prepared to take the next step in his romance - even if his family wasn’t.

“I knew if I told my parents I was going to propose they wouldn’t let me get on that plane,” says Fox. “In hindsight, maybe they were right. The marriage ended after eight years.”

The marriage may not have lasted, but the memories from Ukraine stuck around.
Part of what made the trip so memorable for Fox were the vast cultural differences in the former Soviet republic.

“There was a general sense of distrust towards outsiders,” said Fox. “The Soviet distrust – just like the vodka – was a true stereotype for me.”

That distrust led to all kinds of sticky situations, including being chased by bathroom attendants holding bleach and being threatened after taking a picture of someone’s goat.

Even though originally written as a movie script, Fox has no qualms with how his story is finally getting told.  

“It stalled after the producer dropped the project. Rather than just cry about it, I decided to turn it into a book,” says Fox. “It was very liberating to write the whole story as it happened – as opposed to the Hollywood approach.”

Still, he’s not ruling out the possibility of a movie, and he’s got a couple of people in mind to play the leading man.

“I’ve thought about Zach Braff and John Krasinski; I think they’re both maybe too old for the part at this point,” says Fox. “This is somebody who doesn’t look like me in the least – but Aziz Ansari would be perfect for Love and Vodka.”

Article by Ethan Merrill, Current State Web Intern 

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