If you believe the media, Mary Barkovskaya doesn’t actually exist. She is a Millennial, a professional model, living near London. But, she is also a South Dakota Catholic with outspoken, orthodox values, and recently she married the man of her dreams. (All this without cohabiting with him and without even taking him for a ‘test drive’ first.)
How did this seeming miracle happen? What can be her secret of attaining a romantic, successful life which many find so elusive? Mary recently sat down with REGINA to tell us her story.
REGINA: How old are you?
MARY: I'm 32. I kept my eye out for a husband since starting college, but more seriously as time went on, after graduating. I also considered being a nun as a vocation.
REGINA: Did you “date”?
MARY: Overall I would say I dated on a friendship/getting to know someone level. Some were Catholic. Some were critical of my orthodox Catholic values, as is society. Early on I knew that I didn't want a “boyfriend” just to have one, with no certain and clear logical end to marriage. I knew I wanted my serious investment of self to go to my husband.
REGINA: Do you think that your orthodox Catholic values affected how you presented yourself visually?
MARY: For sure, the way you dress reflects how you respect yourself and others around you. God is order, beauty and dignity and we need to reflect Him in our architecture, dress, and manners. Revealing clothing, logos, androgynous design has always been promoted to my generation. Any form of modesty and beauty has been attacked.
REGINA: You have some strong opinions regarding dressing.
MARY: Yes. Catholic men and women need to start by dressing better for Mass. We need to bring a sense of occasion to events and Mass is the top of the list of those occasions. On that note, the Latin Mass and women wearing veils to Mass is superior and should be the way forward; back to the future. Mass pews used to have hat clips on the front for men to place their hats during Mass. These small ways of dignified dress, reverence and respect are gone. It's easy to put on the sloppy comfy outfit. On the other hand, beauty takes effort and it's worth that effort.
REGINA: You are also critical of the powers-that-be in the fashion world.
MARY: I find it funny that finally the left wing fashion “powers” are now tripping over themselves to cater to an interest group that has a demand for modest fashion on catwalk and fashion weeks, when for decades they were promoting the exact opposite to the predominant western culture.
REGINA: You have personal experience of this?
MARY: Yes, I was in a Miss USA pageant several years ago and decided to wear a modest opening dress and a one piece for the swim portion, in contrast to all the mini dresses and bikinis. Points were deducted for it and I didn't make even top five, while today if you wear swim attire in this competition covering you from wrist to ankle you are publicly celebrated and rewarded.
REGINA: Just wow.
MARY: The hypocrisy of our times is comical.
REGINA: So, you face professional pressure regarding modesty. Did you ever face pressure from men to compromise your beliefs regarding chastity?
MARY: Yes, though more so around the time I was in college. It was so prevalent, but there's always people out there who think likewise on chastity, despite what the media want you to believe. People always say it's so difficult to stay chaste; it's not if you stay on the straight and narrow. The hardest part is having the courage to not “fit-in”. Looking back, I usually surrounded myself with likeminded people.
REGINA: Did any of your friends exert pressure on you to break your convictions?
MARY: Not really, more like I was the one to break their convictions if they were on a wayward path.
REGINA: Looking back, how difficult is it to recognize if a man has sound morals, or whether he is only putting on an act?
MARY: You can tell if things seem ‘off'…red flags. Noticing details. What he says and does, what rules he thinks he can break. It can be difficult, but as long as you living in virtue and integrity everything will become clear and the truth will show.
REGINA: And today?
MARY: Today being conservative, chaste, and pretty much anything else ‘Good, True, and Beautiful’ is the new rebellion and counter culture – which is an incentive to do it. But rather, it's more fun to ridicule and laugh at the banality of the worldliness in our culture. It's so typical and stupid.
I think the rise of social media has made it easier to find good Catholics, I'm thankful for that.
REGINA: Did you ever struggle <not> to follow the world?
MARY: Sometimes the mood would strike me of “what’s the point?” — no one seems to care and everyone else is on ‘easy street'. Having a strong and solid family base where you can retreat from the world helps. I think growing up it's easy to feel insufficient compared to the lifestyle that magazines, film, and television sold and continue to sell to young adults.
REGINA: What media did you enjoy?
MARY: I am a big Jane Austen fan. I also love Fulton Sheen's books. I would read many books by the saints while in Adoration. I listen to all types of music; Country, Pop, classical, Kpop, Russian, Gregorian chant, 1940s, 1980s, 90s hits.
REGINA: Before you met your husband, did you ever feel hopeless?
MARY: Yeah, it did seem bleak at times. I spent a lot of time in Adoration. I was prepared to go it on my own given the world that we live in. I just prayed for God's will to be done concerning my state in life.
REGINA: How did you meet your husband?
MARY: He did a military exchange program in South Dakota and we later were introduced through a mutual friend. He moved to the UK as a young teen but grew up in the Soviet Union. It has been interesting to learn more about Russia, how it was then and now; and to everyday observe how it has returned back to God from communist atheism. I admire the visual beauty and tradition of the Orthodox Church.
REGINA: Do people in London have a different attitude towards dating and marriage?
MARY: Yes. Overall, London is on a more advanced level of degeneracy and ruin, as are most major cities. Chastity, family, tradition is decaying in the west, including in South Dakota. Now we are seeing the rotten fruit of society when that foundation of God virtue, tradition, family, is lost. It creates a void, and there's always bad stuff waiting to fill voids that only God can.
REGINA: Sounds grim.
MARY: There are always people who are shining lights in in the darkness, though. There are good Catholics here. The beauty of the land, the history, this is still God's country.
I pray to the Catholic saints of England, even if I don't know them all by name. Catholics in England were treated poorly, and were put through a lot of prejudice, murder, and persecution, with many of our buildings and institutions destroyed. I don't think we will get reparations for that, but we have a lot of English saints pulling for us.
REGINA: What has the response been from young English people?
MARY: It takes prudence and tact to know when to talk about your beliefs with people who don't share them. At the right time people will listen openly; that's the best response you can ask for.
REGINA: How do you handle people who disapprove of you following the Faith?
MARY: It's part of the daily Catholic life to encounter acquaintances, conversations, and experiences with people who are not following the Faith, who just expect everyone else to silently agree with their mediocre life. It's easy to just mentally filter it with a bored sigh of “typical”, which isn't very charitable. If the situation calls for it, as a friend, “admonish the sinner” which is the third spiritual work of mercy.
REGINA: Pretty courageous. ‘Fierce’, even.
MARY: I find I'm at a point where I give zero ‘cares' if other people disapprove of me following the Faith. If all the other major world religions can openly celebrate their faith and be rewarded and praised for their fervour and piety by the ‘left', then why can't we?
REGINA: What are your hopes today?
MARY: I hope I can do more, help more, have a platform for more. I hope to help women regain the true sense of confidence which, before anything else, comes from living a virtuous life of nobility, purity, and character. This will help the men, which will help the nation.
I am passionate about beauty. I hope all Catholic churches rid themselves of plain modernist design and glorify God with beautiful architecture, and with the beauty of the traditional Mass.
REGINA: Will you teach your children your Catholic values?
MARY: Definitely! Rather, I hope the “student surpasses the teacher” in that regard.
Photos by Family and Friends