David Malkin was born on March 23, 1910 in Akkerman, a city near Odessa on the Black Sea in a region that was then called Bessarabia (currently Ukraine). He was the youngest of seven children who grew up in a Jewish family that was religious without being orthodox, except for his father and grand-father. The latter was the scribe of the local synagogue and copied sacred texts by hand onto parchment scrolls. His skill was legendary and he was renowned for being able to fit a word onto a grain of rice.

Malkin's father, Menahem, used crushed pigments to make colors in a variety of forms: dyes for fabrics, paints for buildings and decoration, color tubes and pastels for artists. The family hardware store sold these along with other art supplies.

Growing up in this world, Malkin’s passion for painting and sculpture emerged early on. He drew, he painted landscapes, and made plasticine figurines that had pride of place in the shop window. More than one customer advised his parents to enroll him in art classes to develop his undeniable talent.

This proved a difficult decision since Judaism forbids human representation. Allowing a child to play was one thing, but encouraging him to follow this path was another.

Lazar, the family’s oldest son, fifteen years Malkin’s senior, was an enlightened scholar who had traveled widely abroad. His influence turned out to be decisive in obtaining Malkin’s parents’ consent.

As a result, Malkin attended the academy of sculptor Arrerman Norman, a fine arts professor from Prague, and took classes at the painter Nicolai Ivanovitch Berner’s studio. Beginning at age fourteen, Malkin exhibited his sculptures in Odessa alongside those of established artists.

At twenty-three, David Malkin had his own studio where he focused on sculpture as his primary form of expression.