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Both are thankful it was not more difficult.“We’re lucky that our families are not extremely conservative,” Vladimir, 26, says.

Practical challenges like these are something Yevgenia Novokhatnaya understands well.

When David first came to Moscow 10 years ago, he stood out like a sore thumb. On public transportation, other passengers avoided sitting next to him. Many accused him of marrying his wife Natasha for financial reasons.

People treated him as though he were “from another planet,” he says. It was too painful.”Both David and Natasha are African, in a sense.

She says that being married to David, a Nigerian former professional soccer player, is normal for her and her parents.“Mixed” or “international” marriages are not uncommon in today’s Russia, but they are still far from the norm.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, which opened the country to foreigners, also opened the floodgates to increased national sentiment.

At the time, she was working for a think tank and carrying out research on different ethnic diasporas in Russia.

The challenge is that David is black and Natasha is white.

Born to Soviet diplomats in the Republic of Congo, Natasha spent her formative years in Africa, speaking French better than Russian.

She had become Anna Kim to get a window into Korean community.

Despite the initial deception, Vladimir and Gayane continued talking and eventually started dating.

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