Family Above All

My story is like a mosaic, made up of different pieces. It is unique, just like each one of us. And although life presented me with its challenges, it gave me something that cannot be bought with any amount of money — the love, care, and wisdom of my loved ones.

I am an only child in my family. When my father passed away and my mother became heavily involved in her business, my upbringing was taken on by my mother’s parents and her grandmother. Unfortunately, the connection with my father’s relatives was severed after his death, and I know that his parents are no longer alive.

My grandfather, Nikolay Aleksandrovich Kostaushov, and my grandmother, Tatiana Ivanovna Kostaushova, were both born in Kazakhstan. My grandmother is officially registered as Russian, but her family has Tatars and Jews in their lineage, while my grandfather is half German and half Ukrainian, as his mother came from there. My grandfather’s ancestors never lived in Germany, they were originally from the Volga region, from where they were deported by Stalin’s order. Therefore, my grandfather was born in 1946 in the East Kazakhstan region, in a small village. He attended a Kazakh school and only completed six grades. This was because their father passed away, and as the oldest son, he had to start working. There were eight children in their family. At the age of 12 or 13, my grandfather worked on a tractor, if I remember correctly, as a mechanic. He did not receive higher education and did not serve in the army, but he was always a good provider. Once, he made a deal and brought a whole truckload of watermelons to our house, and another time, a sandbox appeared in my yard.

He was a jack of all trades, especially when it came to cars. His subsequent career was related to trucks. My grandfather worked in different regions of Kazakhstan, and it was through this work that he met my grandmother.

For many years, my grandfather dedicated himself to his work until one day, doctors discovered he had diabetes. Despite his disability, he could not sit idle and opened his own car repair shop. But his health continued to deteriorate, and when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, my grandfather began losing his eyesight. He tried various forms of correction, but it did not help. Eventually, he had to sell his repair shop.

My grandmother, Tatiana, was born in 1953. She received her education at the Semipalatinsk Medical Institute. During the Soviet era, she worked as the head of a pharmacy in a district hospital, and then ventured into the world of business — she started dealing in trade, specifically with women’s clothing departments in department stores. I called her «mom» while I lived with them. 

My great-grandmother, Maria, also lived with us. She had two college degrees — one in teaching and another in accounting. Thanks to her, I learned how to read and write at a very young age. By the time I was 1.5 years old, I could already walk, and by 2 years old, I was talking. By the time I was 3 years old, I could even write, although I struggled with pronouncing the letter «r». It became a family joke. Whenever someone asked me to say «fish», I would respond with «herring».

Because I spent so much time learning at home with my grandmother, school became boring for me. I already knew the multiplication table while my classmates were just learning the alphabet.

We also loved watching Latin American soap operas. One of our favorites was called «Land of Love, Land of Hope». It started at six in the evening, so before it began, my grandmother and I would read books together and practice writing and counting. I remember there was a bookshelf in the living room, and next to it was a cozy armchair where we would have our reading and poetry evenings. During holidays, that corner would be decorated, and I would have my own little chair where I would recite poems. Those were the most magical moments of my childhood. Birthdays were always filled with surprises, and I would write letters to Santa Claus every year until I was in fourth grade.

When I entered middle school, I moved in with my mom, but I would still spend every vacation and holiday at my grandparents’ house. My other grandmother, Tatiana, also loved watching soap operas, and we would often stay up late watching them. My grandfather, who loved me dearly, at the same time really wanted a grandson, so he often called me «son». He would take me hunting and fishing, and in the garage, I would be his eyes, reading him different car model encyclopedias. I would never wish for anyone to experience what my grandfather went through in his last years. Due to illness, he lost his eyesight, lived in constant stress, took many medications, and experienced memory lapses.

Despite all this, our home was always filled with support and openness. They would always tell me, «Don’t hide anything from us, and we will find a way to help you.» They treated me like an adult from a young age, which made me feel like an important part of the family and its affairs.

No matter what happened, family always came first, and we would always help each other. This has been the guiding principle of our family. They also taught me to follow my conscience and always find solutions to problems.

My grandfather passed away in 2013 when I was in my first year of university. But his memory will forever remain in my heart.

So, that’s a little glimpse into my childhood, filled with love, learning, and family. 

Respondent: Laura Vaigorova

Interviewer: Gulnaz Tulenova and Arailym Temirlankyzy

Editor: Kymbat Kaliyeva