The geography of marriage has changed in Greece over the past few years. Greek falls in love with Greek has given way to Greek falls in love with Albanian, Russian, Ukrainian and so forth. In an increasingly multiethnic, multicultural society of mixed marriages, especially in some areas, is the new reality. Love and marriage are unfazed by racism and xenophobia. The phenomenon is more pronounced in the provinces, such as in Ioannina and Rhodope, and less so in other places, such as in Thessaloniki, whose inhabitants seem to insist on Greek partners. Most mixed marriages take place between Greeks coming from the former Soviet Union, Bulgaria and Albania. But relationships – leading to marriage – with individuals from other EU states, the USA or Canada, who reside permanently in Greece, are not lacking either. «The rise in mixed marriages in our area has been obvious in the past five years,» said Father Stylianos, from the marriage bureau of the Cathedral of Ioannina. «Greek women have been eclipsed in the provinces, so men easily make the decision to marry northern Epirote or Albanian women – more rarely, the other way round.» In the Evros prefecture, Greeks marry Pontic and Georgian Greeks, while marriages between Muslims and Christians are next to non-existent. «Up to now, we haven’t had any confirmed cases of fake marriages undertaken out of legal interests,» the Bishop of Alexandroupolis, Anthimos, told Kathimerini. «If one of the two doesn’t have a residence permit, the marriage cannot take place, so we inform the couple of the procedures and conditions under which the sacrament can be administered. But the phenomenon of a man of Greek nationality wanting to marry a woman from abroad is widespread here in the Evros region.» In Athens, archbishopric statistics from 1995 until today show a fall in the number of marriages. In 1995, the Athens Archbishopric issued 8,376 marriage licenses, a number which dropped to 6,058 in 2001. So far in 2002, 5,150 licenses have been issued. But the choice of a foreign wife (chiefly Pontic Greeks from Russia, Northern Epirotes and Bulgarians) is also true of Athens. Any perusal of the marriage announcements will confirm that one in five are mixed. By contrast, Thessaloniki residents show preference for local partners. «There are few cases of marriages with foreign-born men or women. Thessaloniki men not only prefer to marry Greek women, but Thessaloniki women at that,» Father Palaiologos of the Thessaloniki bishopric’s marriage bureau told Kathimerini. But National Statistics Service data suggest the institution of marriage in Greece as a whole has been undergoing a crisis from the early 1990s until today. While in 1991, 65,568 marriages took place, in 1998 this number dropped by 10,000. Love without borders Champion of the idea that love knows no borders, retired sailor Dimitris Kontos will marry Larissa Narusvili from Abkhazia in the former Soviet Union. «If I had fallen in love with a Chinese woman, I would have married her. Not race, nor country of origin, not even language would have stood in my way,» the 50-year-old bridegroom told Kathimerini. He met 35-year-old Larissa one and a half years ago among friends they had in common in Athens. «It was a question of luck and chemistry. My girl is Orthodox Christian and a Greek citizen. There are no ulterior motives, though I know of quite a few such cases. «When I was a sailor, I remember many sailors who married American women only to get a green card or out of self-interest,» he added. The marriage will take place shortly in Athens, attended by a small circle of friends and relatives.