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Reclusive Siberian hermit Agafia Lykov comes out of isolation to say Happy New Year

By Anna Liesowska
31 December 2014

She has lived in the wilderness for 71 years but famous Old Believer faces the cameras to deliver world a message for first time.

'I wish everyone good health, spriritual salvation, prosperinty, well-being and long years ahead'. Picture: Igor Nazarov

A famous Siberian hermit who has only ever ventured out of isolation a handful of times has come out of hiding to deliver a New Year message to the world. Reclusive Agafya Lykova is the sole survivor of family of Old Believers that cut themselves off from civilisation for decades and in 1978 had no idea the World War Two had ended.

Members of a fundamentalist Russian orthodox church that had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great in the 18th century, the Lykovs had fled deep into the Siberian wilderness amid a Stalinist purge of religions in 1936. As the years passed they retreated deeper and deeper into forests, foraging for whatever they could find and once even being forced to eat their leather shoes to survive.

Their full incredible story only emerged in the 1980s, turning them into a national phenomenon although Agafya chose to remain on the little plot.

Now the last remaining member of the family, even to this day she has only ventured out from isolation six times in her 71 years. However, for the first time she has gone in front of television cameras to wish the world a prosperous and fruitful New Year.

Giving an interview to NTV she said: 'I wish everyone good health, spriritual salvation, prosperinty, well-being and long years ahead'.

Reclusive Siberian hermit Agafia Lykov comes out of isolation to say Happy New Year
Agafya Lykova, 71. Picture: Alexander Kuznetsov, Krasnoyarsky Rabochiy 

Agafya, who was born in 1943, was given a handful of presents during the visit from the television crew, including batteries for her torch, candles, food for her goats and a food pack containing fruit and sweets. Her life in the Siberian countryside is tough and she told NTV correspondent Sergey Syrkin that she is now finding the harsh winter 'unbearable'.

He said: 'It’s hard to heat her izba (log house) and she fails to save enough products. Wild animals often come to her lodge and steal her food'.

During the interview he also discovered that the reclusive woman tries to chase away anyone who visits her with a cough or a cold. It was this partly this illness that killed her brothers and father, and she is scared of the symptoms. At the beginning of winter her neighbour, geologist Yerofey Sedov, came down with an illness and she told him to stay way.

Agafya said: 'He was coughing and coughing and I got scared. For me it’s case of if you cough, get away from here'.

Agafya has called the wilderness home for all of her seven decades, with her little plot located about 500 feet up a remote mountain side in the Abakan Range, in south-western Siberia. She was the fourth child of Karp and Akulina Lykov and for the first 35 years of her life she had no contact at all with anyone outside her family.

It was in the summer of 1978 that a group of geologists accidentally stumbled across the group, with scientists reporting that Agafia spoke a strange blurred language 'distorted by a lifetime of isolation'. Her father, Karp Lykov, had taken the decision to flee normal civilisation in 1936 after a communist patrol arrived at the fields on which he was working and shot dead his brother.

Gathering a few meagre possessions and some seeds, he took his wife, Akulina, their nine-year-old son, Savin, and two-year-old daughter Natalia, and headed off into the forest. Over the years they retreated deeper into taiga, building a series of wooden cabins amid the pine trees.

Reclusive Siberian hermit Agafia Lykov comes out of isolation to say Happy New Year

Reclusive Siberian hermit Agafia Lykov comes out of isolation to say Happy New Year
The Lykovs' house pictured in the middle of 80s, and Agafya some years ago. Pictures: Igor Nazarov, Vladimir Makuta

When their metal pots had disintegrated beyond use, they were forced to live on a staple diet of potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds. However a bad winter in 1961 killed off everything in their garden and they were reduced to eating their own leather shoes. The cold weather, and lack of food, tragically proved too much for Akulina who died.

Once the family was discovered they continued to live in the wilderness and, apart from salt, knives, forks and handles, they opted not to adopt any methods or items from the modern world. Sadly just two years later three of the four children also died: Savin and Natalia suffered kidney failure and Dmitry died of pneumonia.

Agafya’s father died in his sleep in February 1988, but despite her age and the risks to her health she continues to live on the little homestead.

A number of people, including Aman Tuleyev, the governor of Kemerovo Oblast, do keep an eye out for her, bringing her provisions including cabbage, flour, grapes and her favourite oranges. Vladimir Makuta, head of Tashtagolskyi region of Kemerovskaya Oblast, said: 'It is important for us to know she has everything she needs, that she’ll live another winter and will have food'.

Comments (66)

Agafia is an amazing survivor. She has little in material possessions but a powerful belief in God. I am gladdened to see there are people in Siberia who look out for her. Hopefully she will have enough food to stay alive and warm clothes and firewood for winter. She must be having trouble wielding an axe now and chopping her own firewood. I wish her a long and happy life.
Rosalind Rossiter, New Zealand
11/05/2015 17:42
Fascinating story that I have watched several times. Why does Agafia need help?! Because everybody in this world needs it, specially at that age. She might continue surviving in her harsh environment by herself, however, a littel help and we might enjoy the Agafia stories for many years to come.
Ligia Kiamco, Cranston, RI, USA
17/04/2015 09:30
March 3, 2015 Tuesday Dear Agafia: I have read a lot about you and watched several You Tube videos about you and your family. I would love to help you get the medical - surgical care you need to relieve you of the burden of the large right breast tumor which I understand is not cancerous. I do hope not. I have been to Russia 3 times and love your country. We have several Russians here where I live. I admire your way of life and appreciate that people are taking an interest in you. I read your letter from RT appealing for someone to help you. I agree you need someone as you get older. I will pray God will send someone. Yerofei needs someone, too and you shouldn't have to care for him as you get older. May God bless you with His love and peace and strength. If we could find someone to operate on you, would you consider it? You could feel so much better. Most sincerely your friend, Dr. Roby Sherman, MD in Georgia, USA Thank you, Siberian Times for your interest in Agafia.
Roby Angelina Sherman, MD, Wildwood, Georgia, USA
04/03/2015 06:41
Why do you all assume she needs help? How arrogant! You may infect her if you are sick. Let her be.
Drew Howard, Michigan
22/02/2015 04:30
I agree B. Robinson she is my hero...I think we should actually take some action and visit her for a week and help her out. She exemplifies pure faith, and enduring hardship with a humility and honestly that is refreshing.

I'm serious about meeting me at

Maybe we can get a couple others to go and help her out. It would be a life changing experience as well as ministry just as the article was.
Wanda Bradford, Fredericksburg, Virginia USA
09/02/2015 23:13
Dear Agafia lykova, I am very happy to see you are recieving help, if i could pay to get there i would help you with work for the winters. Your my hero. I think about you alot since i learned your story. GOD has blessed you! You work so hard,i am so impressed how strong you have been through your difficult life. With love from Billy
B Robinson, Saint louis, mo United States
29/01/2015 17:38
What a fascinating story and person. Happy New Year to you, Agafya!
Sara, Australia
18/01/2015 18:17
The world needs more Agafya's wish I could live that simple a life, the less you have the more you have.
Bill Kinter ,Deblois, Maine USA ,
08/01/2015 04:48
It's really a fascinating story and like other opinions here it is a nice example for us which have created a dependant culture of the market. Thanks for sharing the story a keep us informed from a Big Coutry like that one yoy have. Simply thanks and Happy New Year for every one.
04/01/2015 22:44
Thank you very much Siberian Times for publishing this article. Happy New Year to you and your readers.

I've often wondered how Agafya is doing in her cold and isolated part of the world. It is reassuring to know that she still seems to be fine and doing well, though not as young and strong as before. How nice to read that officials such as Mr. Tuleyev and Mr. Makuta are making sure that she has food, fuel, etc. to ensure her further survival in that wilderness. How responsible, kind and caring they are.

I have found Agafya's life story to be inspirational and uplifting. Partly because of her, I stopped buying things and what people call "conspicuous consumption". We really need little to live well. When I sometimes get frustrated in my daily activities in my little city life, such as waiting for a bus that comes late, or does not even show up, I catch myself asking "what would Agafya do?" Her abilities to survive and cope with all her problems in that lonely outpost put my little frustrations into shame and proper perspective, and I cool down and carry on with a smile.

I thank her for her message, and I send her the same sentiments. Active believers such as Agafya are really the happiest, don't you think? May 2015 be full of blessings, good cheer, and prosperity to Agafya and to all! Once again, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
E. Espinosa, Edmonton, Alberta Canada
02/01/2015 17:45
Jsi velmi odvážná a silná žena.Přeji ti pevné zdraví a každý den at´ slunce svítí nad tvou hlavou.
Mirka, Czech Republic
02/01/2015 01:28
Meilleurs vœux à tous les Russes, en espérant que tout va s'arranger.
jean bourdil, 11 290 Montreal aude france
01/01/2015 13:06
Meilleurs vœux à tous les Russes, en espérant que tout va s'arranger.
jean bourdil, 11 290 Montreal aude france
01/01/2015 13:06
Greetings, Agafya. Wishing you the best for 2015.
Elaine van Aarde, Sydenham, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
01/01/2015 11:53
Dear mrs Lykova,

I am impressed by you story.
I envy you. A life away from the nowadays worldwide problems. That is something to look forward to.
However I am to much involved with everyday responsabilities that I can not make a change anymore.
Although I do understand that in your life you have to face other kinds of problems which has to be solved in order to servive. it was good to read that there are people who took responsability and give you support to continue your life.

I wish you all the best for the years to come and wish you above all a peaceful state of mind!

With kindest regard,

To the team of Seberian Times: thanks for sharing this item!
Rudike Temminck, Meeuwen / The Netherlands
01/01/2015 08:00

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