This is an archived site. For the latest news, visit us at our new home:


JWire logo


Weekly Newspaper Editors:
Welcome to J-Wire. This content in this section is available for publishing by Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers, with attribution to the author. Please write in the comment field where and when the article will be published. To download high-res versions of the photos in this section, please visit our Flickr site here:

Mark Scrivener, 45-year-old Martensville man, proudly shows off his 2013 wedding photo with Russian mail order bride, Marina Kartashova. Photo by Victoria Dinh.

A woman in a faded green dress stands jutting out her hip. With an unexpressive pout, she blankly stares into the camera while resting one hand on her waist. A Christmas tree sits sparsely decorated in the background. Along the bottom of her profile photo a lone sentence reads, "Marina is engaged to a man from Canada.”


Seven thousand kilometres away in the small city of Martensville, Saskatchewan, Mark Scrivener prepares for the arrival of his mail order bride. He has already completed the majority of the renovations on his four-bedroom house, dressing the empty bedrooms with suitable furniture for his incoming wife. This home makeover has kept him busy since the two exchanged nuptials in 2013. 


Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy marries girl. It may seem like a straightforward anecdote, but Scrivener’s journey finding a long-term partner has been far from easy.


After his first marriage to a woman in Saskatoon ended in 2001, he attempted using several community dating services to find a mate. Discouraged with the selection of local women, he moved to Martensville and turned to the virtual world.


“I heard a radio talk show of a man who had married a woman from Russia and how it had worked out for him,” he remembered. “He was from Texas and he started his own [online] agency. I first used [that agency] and it was very expensive.” 


One $5,000 membership fee later, Scrivener decided to jump ship in 2005 to another online company called Vitochka. This is where he met wife #2: Tatiana from Crimea, Ukraine.


“We hit it off quite well. I asked her to marry me, and she accepted,” he said. Following a quick courtship, Tatiana received a temporary resident visa in January 2006 and arrived in Martensville shortly after in September.


“We got married [in Canada that same year] and then she returned home [six months later] because her visa ran out,” Scrivener said. He stared down at the table trying to recount what happened next. “I was about to start the process of getting her permanent residence [but then] she sent me an e-mail that [said] she didn’t want to come back… I waited for some time and I realized that she wasn’t going to come back.”


After a bit of recuperation from his $9,000 second marriage, he turned to Google once again entering “Russian mail order bride” into the search engine. This is how he found a website called Volga Girl.


“It had profiles of women on there with basically their stats.” Scrivener sat in front of his laptop scrolling through profiles as he described the website. “Their height, their weight, their hair colour, their eye colour, their interests, what they’re looking for in a partner, if they have children, their age, their birth date…” He trailed off.


The website states: the site began in 1999 with a goal to help Russian ladies “find emotional stability in a loving and lasting relationship with a foreign husband.” If you scroll a little further down the page, that’s where the money enters: “[Costs] are $8.50 for a lady's profile purchase, e-mails are $3.50 and translations by a professional staff are two cents per word (US$).” On a link along the side, past the “Free Men’s Catalog” is the “Order Page.” This is where discounted packages can be found: lady’s profile packages, e-mail correspondence packages, translation packages, visa support assistance, as well as trip bundle options crowd the page. The prices range from $25-$500 per selection.


Since 2010 Scrivener has been the Canadian office manager for Volga Girl and according to his stats of the company’s past five years, about 1000 men, ages 25-75, have registered on the website. Eighty per cent of that clientele are Americans, while the other 20 per cent is split between Canada and other countries.


“[In Canada], I’d say about 70 per cent of [the male clientele] are in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and then the rest is spread out through Canada,” Scrivener said. “I have about three neighbours that are married to [mail order brides] from Russia and Ukraine… it’s more common than you think,” he added.


“At this point we have over 1000 ladies registered on our website [in our local area],” said Elena Bessonova, the Volga Girl office manager in Togliatti, Russia.


It was there that Scrivener met and began corresponding with Volga Girl #4370: Marina Kartashova, a 39-year-old divorcee from Togliatti, and his soon-to-be third wife.


Her stats: height – 5’4”; weight – 118 lbs.; eye colour – green; form ­– 33/27/37; children – yes, daughter 14; school – university; smoker – no. Her address has been purchased two times.


Underneath she writes, “I am friendly, sincere, sociable, calm and patient. I enjoy reading books, spending time with my friends, walking with my dog, traveling with my daughter and fishing. I dream about a strong happy family, living in a house of our own in the countryside. I want to give a good education to my daughter to find a good job with a good salary.”


Next, she describes her ideal partner: “37-52. His height is not less than 170cm (67 inches), he is Caucasian, not overweight. He is smart, kind, generous, well-mannered and tidy.”


“She used to work in a local floral shop which I frequented,” said Bessonova. As part of her job, Bessonova would purchase bouquets for the Volga Girl women when instructed to by the overseas clientele. “It took [Marina] a few years before she signed up with [our company]. It was a very well thought out and weighed out decision on her part… She just didn’t want to be alone; she wanted a life partner.”


After a few months of correspondence, Scrivener made a decision to travel to Togliatti and meet Kartashova. He proposed one week later and she said yes. The couple was legally married that same year in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

 Mark Scrivener's collection of wedding photos including a picture of his marriage certificate from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. He married his Russian mail order bride, Marina Kartashova, in 2013. Photo by Victoria Dinh.


Since their marriage in 2013, the process of getting Kartashova past the Canadian border has been a laborious task. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, a citizen or permanent resident of Canada is able to sponsor their spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, and dependent children to immigrate to Canada – so that’s what Scrivener did for his new wife and her 14-year-old daughter, Anna. He just didn’t realize how long the process would take.


“They look at your wage, your physical address, how much you’ve moved around the country, and they look at your criminal history, obviously, before they approve you,” Scrivener described. He had hired a lawyer to help him fill out the piles of sponsorship paperwork.


In the meantime, Kartashova and her teenaged daughter had to pass both a criminal record check and receive a medical exam through a Canadian approved doctor.


Two weeks ago, Scrivener finally received good news: his sponsorship application had been approved in Warsaw, Russia, after more than a year of waiting. Come June, Kartashova and her daughter will legally come live with him in his home in Martensville.

Mark Scrivener, 45-year-old Martensville man, enjoys his first kiss as husband and wife with his Russian mail order bride, Marina Kartashova. Scrivener shifts through photos in the background. Photo by Victoria Dinh. 

“He has always been very determined to find his match in Russia,” Bessonova said of Scrivener. “[Since] I have known him, I know that he has had his failures but has never given up. I find it very commendable.”


The fear of Kartashova leaving soon after her arrival has crossed Scrivener’s mind a few times but he tries not to think about it. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” he said with a faint smile.