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'Our Christmas story': Ukrainian family looking forward to first Christmas in Victoria

Anton Kostin, Savva Kostin and Kat Malkina decorate their Christmas tree in Victoria. (CTV) Anton Kostin, Savva Kostin and Kat Malkina decorate their Christmas tree in Victoria. (CTV)

Anton Kostin and his family are decorating the tree in preparation for their first Christmas in Victoria.

“It’s the most important family holiday in our life,” said Kostin.

For the family from Mariupol, getting here to celebrate this holiday has been a journey.

“Our Christmas story here in Canada started on the 24th of February,” said Kostin.

That’s the day Russia invaded Ukraine.

Kostin was out at sea working for a German-based shipping company. His wife and six-year-old son were at home as the bombs began to fall on their city.

“The main bombing was for at least three weeks,” said Kostin. “Unstoppable, day and night.”

With the border closed, Kostin could not get back into the country. He made his way to neighbouring Poland, hoping his family would make it out alive.

On March 16, the first unofficial convoy managed to get out of Mariupol, under constant shelling.

“More than 2,000 cars were able to escape safely,” said Kostin.

In one of those cars were his wife Olena and his son Savva.

Reunited in Poland, the trio needed to find a new place to call home. That’s where Olena’s daughter Kat Malkina joins this story. She spent two years at Pearson College near Victoria and is now pursuing a post-secondary education at a college near Chicago.

Malkina started an online fundraiser and was able to secure enough money to get her family to Canada by early July.

“I’m very excited to actually celebrate, for the first time, on the North American continent,” said Malkina.

The ordeal has given the family a new perspective on what Christmas means to them.

“Be together,” said Malkina. “Focus on all the good things.”

“Be thankful for each Christmas in your life and support each other,” said Kostin. “To be on the phone when it’s necessary, to answer the phone when it’s necessary, because tomorrow maybe somebody will not be able to answer to your phone call.” Top Stories

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