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'Today Siberia is a vast region of bustling metropolises and magnificent landscapes'
A. J. Haywood

Can anyone help the woman who time forgot?

By The Siberian Times reporter
17 January 2014

Born in the Siberian taiga, recluse Agafya Lykova is the sole survivor of the Lykov family who cut themselves off from civilisation in 1936.

Elsewhere in Russia, she might be sitting back and taking it easy as a pensioner but in her remote home, hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town, she works daily, pitting her wits against the extreme of cold and hot that mark the Siberian climate. Picture: Igor Shpilenok

All alone, she makes fire from flint but in a heartfelt letter to a Siberian newspaper, she begs for a fellow Christian to join her and care for her in her hermit home, hundreds of kilometres from the nearest towns and villages.

'I don't know how God will help me survive the winter,' wrote Agafya, who has repeatedly refused offers from officials to move to a house in a village, at least for winters. There aren't any logs. I need to get them into the house, and I need to keep reading my prayers. I'm suffocating, and I am getting too cold while doing it when the weather is freezing. 

'Here is my battle for survival, alone and with the house to look after and things to do, all round the clock, until I suffer exhaustion'. 

Her parents - deeply religious Old Believers - set out in 1936 into Siberia's vastness to live apart and escape the persecution they faced under Stalin. 

She was born in this remote wilderness in 1944 or 1945. It was not until 1978, some 42 years after they disappeared, that their primitive huts were spotted from the air in the Sayan Mountains by a party of Soviet geologists who then came to make contact with them.

Anyone joining her would take a trip back several centuries to share her devout and lonely existence, praying and living off the land. 

In the letter to Vladimir Pavlovsky, chief editor of 'Krasnoyarsky Rabochiy' newspaper, Agafya pleads for help with logs to burn on her stove in the cold Siberian winter and with making hay, and planting in spring the next crop of vegetables on which she survives in her lonely abode.

Born in the Siberian taiga, recluse Agafya Lykova is the sole survivor of the Lykov family who cut themselves off from civilisation in 1936

Agafya's letter in Russian, page one. Picture: Krasnoyarskiy Rabochiy

Agafya also expresses fears for her health. 'I am all alone, my years are big, my health is bad, I keep getting ill. There is a lump on my right breast, and my strength is going. There is a need for a person, a helper, assuming there are kind people in the world, as the world has always had kind people. 

'With tears and cry we beg you, in the name of Christ, not to leave me alone and pay mercy to an orphan in need. There must be Christians around.'

Agafya - who never attended school - states in her sometimes rambling letter: 'My big stove stays cold, there is no time and no logs to heat it up. I only manage the small iron one. In the summer I lived outside. When the family was alive, there was enough to do for all of us. 

'The stove was always hot. We cooked. We prayed together, and only went out to do outside works after prayers. And whatever else others were doing, one of us was forever inside, to keep reading our prayers. We prayed together during holidays. And now everything is on me, both the prayers and the household. I can't do the full prayer, nor even the basic one.'

She claimed a previous plea for help in 2005 had not brought anyone to assist her. 'I didn't get any help. I've been asking for it for more than 30 years, I've been sending letters and been asking everyone verbally in person, and those ones who came to me last winter.'

'Somewhere they say millions of Christians live, millions of people live in the world, but there is no help to an orphan.' 

She told how last summer her potato crop was at risk from flooding of the nearby river. 'The water came in and I only just managed to dig the potatoes.'  

'I am asking you in the name of Christ to lot leave me alone for the spring, and to bring an aid if there are kind people around,' she begged.

Born in the Siberian taiga, recluse Agafya Lykova is the sole survivor of the Lykov family who cut themselves off from civilisation in 1936.

Born in the Siberian taiga, recluse Agafya Lykova is the sole survivor of the Lykov family who cut themselves off from civilisation in 1936.

Born in the Siberian taiga, recluse Agafya Lykova is the sole survivor of the Lykov family who cut themselves off from civilisation in 1936.

'All my thoughts are about surviving the winter,' Agafya said. Pictures: Igor Shpilenok

Though writing to the newspaper, Agafya's demand seems to be aimed at the governors of Kemerovo and Khakassia regions. 'All my thoughts are about surviving the winter,' she said. A helper 'does not need to bring the bedding, the pillow and the quilt, everything is arranged and waiting here,' she explained.  'I only need the person to come'.

'Perhaps bring some seed too, like carrot and cucumber, and maybe turnip and onion. Number ten thread, too, for sewing'. 

Editor Mr Pavolvsky told The Siberian Times that he does not believe the situation with Agafya is as desperate as she claims.

'She is being a little cunning,' he said. 'She has no hunger. She wants to attract more attention. She has enough cereals, bags of them lie on her porch, and everywhere. And she has enough potatoes'.

He had passed her letter to the governor of Khakassia Viktor Zimin and also the head of Kemerovo, Aman Tuleyev.

'Today the head of Tashtogol district Alexey Putintsev called me and we agreed that the situation is very complicated. Agafya does receive help and she is repeatedly offered to move from her winter hut, but she is stubborn. And there are no words in this letter about her desire to leave'.

Each year checks are made on her amid concerns about her ability to cope as she nears the age of 70. One visitor was Russian photographer and naturalist Igor Shpilyonok, who arrived on a regular visit by nature reserve inspectors - Sergei Khlebnikov and Alexander Oskin. They found Agafya at prayer, and fasting. It was 2 August, the day the church honours the prophet Elijah.

'She forbade us to work on that day,' said Igor. 'She did not eat anything of the food we brought with, but sat with us and we had a good talk. She took the gifts - rubber boots, socks, dried and fresh fruits. She inspected everything meticulously, to make sure there was no barcode.'

She sees the barcode as the work of the devil, and has nothing to do with it. 'She found a barcode on matches we gave her and returned them. It anyway turns out that until now she makes fire using the ancient method of tinder and flint'.

Born in the Siberian taiga, recluse Agafya Lykova is the sole survivor of the Lykov family who cut themselves off from civilisation in 1936.

Agafya's letter in Russian, page two. Picture: Krasnoyarskiy Rabochiy

The visitors also found that Agafya was living in her summer quarters, not her sturdy wooden house she occupies in winter, built by her late father. Instead, she occupies a hut made of sticks and a token of modernity - a plastic sheet - to keep out the rain. 

'In summer, the recluse does not live in her house, but in this hut among her vegetable beds, sleeping on matting laid on the ground, covered with a blanket,' said Igor. 'Almost all the next day, we were engaged in logging and weeding her vegetable gardens'.

To reach her, they faced a tortuous two day trip, firstly by hovercraft along rivers, then a small boat and finally a long trek on foot. When they left, Agafya gave the men a sack of potatoes as a gift. Feeling her need was greater than theirs, they declined, but she was insistent. 

'We had to take a few potatoes,' he said. 

She also gave Sergei a hand-made belt. They had spent just 20 hours with this remarkable Siberian woman, before leaving her once again to the solitude into which she was born. 

'This short time provided fodder for many reflections on the distant and recent past, the meaning of life, the power of the human spirit, faith,' Igor wrote in his blog. No, I do not feel that Agafia Karpovna's life is a dead end in the taiga'.

Her patronymic refers to her father Karp Lykov, who led the family into the wilderness. When they were discovered, the family comprised Karp Iosifovich,  his sons Savvin, 45, and Dmitry, 36, and daughters Natalya, 42, and Agafya, then 34. The children's mother Akulina had died in 1961.

Born in the Siberian taiga, recluse Agafya Lykova is the sole survivor of the Lykov family who cut themselves off from civilisation in 1936.

Agafya Lykova, pictured in the middle of eighties with father Karl,  left, and Krasnoyarsk professor Nazarov. Picture: The Siberian Times

Accounts vary on Agafya's exact age and whether she was born in 1944 or 1945. The three other children died in 1981 and Karp in 1988 since when Agafya has lived alone at the family's smallholding in what is now Khakassky nature reserve.

Her only companions are two nanny goats, a male goat, eight cats, a rooster, hens, and a dog called Taiga.

Igor visited Agafya with his American wife Laura Williams, a husband and wife photographer-writer team, who work to promote Russia's protected areas.  

The Siberian Times thanks Krasnoyarskiy Rabochiy newspaper and Igor Shpilenok for the images of Agafya Lykova and her letter. Please see Igor's report about his trip to Agafya in Russian - 

Comments (25)

For my dear and wonderful woman Agafya Lykova: I think for me in this moment (because de pandemic and my 60 years old) I can not go all the way to Rusia by my self to help you in your labor works,I’m so sorry about it, but from here and from the bottom of my heart I can prade for you and your health, every single day of my life and that God send you His Angels to help you with your work and life. I know He will hear my prades and you’ll be fine, because you are a Grate and Strong woman all full of feith and love. I wish you God keeps you between His hands and covers you with His Powerful Cape safely. I send you a big hugs and a big kiss. God bless you always and everywhere. I love you Agafya :)
Virginia Pego, México, México.
11/02/2021 00:58
For a good woman, and good soul. I'm crying when I hear her story. And now she is sick and asking for help. I live alone, have grown children and soon 4 grandchildren. Not a job and not so much money. But I had traveled there and been there 1 winter + summer + winters. I pray that it must happen. I am 59 years old and undernursing. My name is Tor Raymond Bäckstrøm Address is Martinshaugen 129 3409 Tranby Norway. Tel. +4790122260

Tor Raymond Bäckstrøm, 3409 Tranby. Norway
23/10/2020 06:54
They are of little understanding who proclaim against her lack of help. I'm reminded of the word of God, "It is not good for man to be alone". Need I say, it is not good for anyone to be alone. By experience, I understand her sensitivities toward the noise and chaos in which the world can impose ~ and her determination to live a peaceable and Godly life. But to live in the wilderness alone much of the time; it would be way too much on an old woman to perform what is required by several. Shame on the man. Thus says the word of God, "What soever thou hast not done unto the least of these, ye have not done it unto me". Aug. 27, 9:04 PM
Ambassador of Christ, America
27/08/2020 20:03
I would also love to be able to send a package to Agafya, nothing with bar codes, where can she receive it? There must be a way to do this? Thank you!
Anya, Edwards,CA, United States
30/11/2019 18:16
Hello, I would like to send Agafia some warm scarves, gloves, hat etc and some pretty replica Russian ones that I found on line, by chance. I also want to send her various colours of her type 10 thread she asked for. Plus very high grade body cream, face cloths, soap and other toiletries. I want to send few her a nice Russian printed novel and yes, a few lipsticks and Irish sweets as she's only human. I'm thinking if I send them care of the park woukd she get them. I can't find the parks exact address though. Please help me and give me her address. My e mail is Thank you. Regards, Mathona.
Mathona Moore, Ireland.
07/07/2019 20:48
I would go and look after Agafya Lykova. I have experience living in the bush. I'm 58 and am not doing much with my life. It would be a honour to help this woman. My email: I am an artist and game inventor.
Rick Nordal, Vancouver, BC, Canada
03/07/2019 13:28
Everyone give her a dollar. Make sure she is taken care of. Eventually she will have to move.
John, Wilkes-Barre, U.S.A
26/12/2018 22:11
I love Agafya! She is such an inspiration to have stuck to the old faith. I wish I could help but the cold would get to me too I'm afraid.I would love to live close to the earth like Agafya. God's beautiful creation. The peace. God bless you Agafya.
Marcia Jones, Barnet Hertfordshire uk
23/08/2018 19:43
I’m trying to contact folks desiring to help Agafia in an efficient and sustainable way. Many of the commenters here seem like perfect members of the community / team. My friend Levi and I are getting our visas to go, and intend to become Russian Citizens. Please check out our GoFundMe page:
Kevin Leland, Chiudad de Mexico, Mexico
09/07/2018 12:15
treba ju prestahovat aj so zvieratkami
dana, slovakia
25/04/2018 20:26
Perhaps we can work together to help her.
Ray Hiera, Amsterdam/Netherlands
05/04/2018 14:00
Hi I would like to help her.
Michael, Slovakia
31/03/2018 22:12
Can someone supply a map reference ? Google Earth ? I am glad she is being checked on, but how does she get internet ? Is she on dialup still ? It looks like her parents religious views and her subsequent indoctrination has wrecked her life. I agree with Helena.
Peter, Auckland New Zealand
02/05/2017 07:38
I would love to live there and help Agafya with daily life. We shouldn't lose such a wonderful woman because she has no help. Will anyone sponsor me to get there? I have no money, but I really would love to help her.
Scott McGill, Moffat, Scotland
19/03/2017 23:29
I want to help her any way I can, even if that means I have to move to live with her the rest of my life. Please someone help me help her. My email: and phone number +1 330 441 0739
Isaiah William, USA
07/12/2016 15:34

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