A Russian Christmas Eve miracle on Montreal's South Shore: A blizzard, a newborn and a welcoming stranger

On Jan. 5, as Zlata Karataev was preparing for Russian Christmas Eve and a blizzard raged outside, a shivering couple with a one-day-old baby knocked on her door in Mercier, Que. She welcomed them, along with three others, found them places to sleep — even helping to nurse the newborn infant.

Zlata Karataev hosted 6 stranded travellers overnight Jan. 5, even nursing the 1-day-old baby

This one-day-old boy and his parents were among the six strangers that Zlata Karataev welcomed into her home during an overnight blizzard Jan. 5. (submitted by Zlata Karataev)

On Jan. 5, as Zlata Karataev was preparing for Russian Christmas Eve and a blizzard raged outside, a shivering couple with a one-day-old baby knocked on her door in Mercier, Que.

She didn't think twice about asking them in. 

By the end of the evening, with whiteout conditions forcing her own husband to ditch his car and walk 30 minutes in the blinding snow to make it home, Karataev had welcomed in six strangers, making dinner and finding places for everyone to sleep overnight.

"That's actually a warmth in my heart that I can do that," she said. "I just opened my door and welcomed everybody."

Zlata Karataev hosted six people stranded by bad road conditions in her Mercier, Que., home Jan. 5. (submitted by Zlata Karataev)

Karataev's street was nearly impassable during the height of the storm, and even first responders and police were staying off the roads except for emergency situations.

"You can't fight with Mother Nature," she said. "People are stuck, and they have nowhere to go, so the only thing they can do is knock on my door."

Karataev, the mother of two young daughters, aged one and three, offered the new parents diapers — and even her own breastmilk, as the new parents had run out of formula and the baby's mother wasn't yet producing milk of her own.

"At least I am still breastfeeding a bit, so I can feed the baby," she said.

Her neighbours were quick to pitch in, as well, bringing over bread, meat and cookies to help feed the  unexpected visitors.

"That was really amazing," she told CBC.

The blowing snow made the road in front of Zlata Karataev's house nearly impassable. (Submitted by Zlata Karataev)

Karataev's husband, Mathieu Loiselle, tried to rush home, once he learned his house was brimming with travellers in need of help.

But he encountered his own problems on the road; his vehicle stuck in the snow, he abandoned it and made the trek on foot.

"He walked in that blizzard for, like, half an hour," said Karataev.

A warm welcome

While the new mother, Jany Gilbert, wasn't up for an interview, she did tell CBC via text message that she was grateful for the assistance.

"They were really kind to us," she said.

Zlata Karataev lives with her husband and two daughters in Mercier, Que. (Zlata Karataev/Facebook)

Gilbert, who lives in Saint-Chrysostome about 30 kilometres from Mercier, was returning from the hospital where her son had been born just the day before, on Jan. 4.

After spending the night with Karataev and her family, the couple called a friend with a tractor to help clear the road, so they could get home.

About the Author

Marilla Steuter-Martin

Marilla Steuter-Martin has been a journalist with CBC Montreal since 2015.

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