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'The beauty of Siberia took me by surprise'
Ian Frazier, 2013

Found: man who vanished before the Soviet Union collapsed to live as a hermit

By The Siberian Times reporter
04 January 2019

Former paratrooper conscript Timofey Menshikov wanted to escape modern life - and vodka - now faces reunion with family he left behind.

Timofey disappeared from civilisation in 1991 having lived in Nyurba. 

A modern-day hermit has been located living alone in a tiny hut in the wilds of Yakutia, the coldest region of the world. 

Timofey disappeared from civilisation in 1991 but has now been found alive some 850 kilometres northwest of regional capital Yakutsk. 

His modest self-made  hut partly dug into the permafrost and made of timber and earth is warmed by a log stove.

Fore more than a quarter of a century he has lived alone just shy of the Arctic Circle where winter temperatures plunge to below minus 60C - yet in summer it can be as hot as plus 35C.

In this inhospitable environment, the bearded 58 year old loner survives by hunting and fishing as he has done since he opted out of 'civilisation'  despite suffering a hip problem.

Timofey


Timofey


Timofey

‘What did I go away from? From vodka, to be honest with you.’

Asked why he fled as the curtains came down on the USSR, he said: ‘What did I go away from? From vodka, to be honest with you.’

He lives without a phone - ‘I don’t need one’ - and pays no taxes or fines, he says, but he has two dogs and a cat for company. 

The recluse was found by Yakutian blogger Oles Geraymovich who said: ‘My father told me long ago that a hermit was living some 40 km from Nyurba in a dugout, completely alone. 

‘But nothing else was known about him. So I decided to go and find him….’

And Timofey’s extraordinary story unfolded.

Hut in taiga


Hut in taiga

This is a place just shy of the Arctic Circle where winter temperatures plunge to below minus 60C - yet in summer it can be as hot as plus 35C.

When he was eight his parents both died. He was sent to an orphanage with his two sisters, while his younger blood brother was raised by a relative. 

In 1979 Timofey was conscripted into the Soviet air assault forces. 

After military service he returned to his native settlement of Sangar, hoping to find his sisters and brother - but he failed to locate them.

This left him ‘broken’: ‘he lost hope.’

Yet he also had a daughter from a relationship that did not last.

She married and had four children, so he is a grandfather. 

His son in law has occasionally visited him, but not his daughter - ‘how can she leave four children?’

He says he never visits the local diamond town some 45 km away - ‘what can I do there? Drunk vodka?’

Hermit's hut


Hermit's hut


Hermit's hut


Dogs

He lives without a phone and pays no taxes or fines, he says, but he has two dogs and a cat for company.

Others might be all right in a town, he said, ‘if you have brains. But what if you don’t?’

He does depend on occasional deliveries of tea, oil and flour from hunters who venture in his direction and have helped him survive - but in 2018 ‘something went wrong’ and nothing reached him, he said.

He was sanguine. 

‘What else do I need here in the taiga? Tea, oil, flour. All the rest is running right there, go and catch.’

What if he feels ill?

He laughed. ‘That’s it then. It means I’ve had enough, my time has come. This is my fate.’

Brother Anatoly


Brother Anatoly - recent picture

Timofey's brother Anatoly: in Soviet times and pictured recently.

Despite this he intends ‘to live for another dozen years’, he said.

He has a boat which he uses in summer to fish on the nearby Lena River, the 11th longest in the world. 

Blogger Oles Geraymovich said: ‘Timofey has everything in order here, the floors are swept.’

His home smells of log fire and smoked fish, and has a tiny bed.

It is minuscule, around two square metres.  

‘His chimney is covered with cladding in order to keep the warmth inside.

He was grateful to accept an offer of books - ‘I read in Russian or the Yakut language’, he said.

Oles with hermit's brother Anatoly and his wife

Timofey's brother Anatoly with his wife and blogger Oles Geraymovich.

He also took condensed milk and canned fish. 

After Oles published his story, he was contacted by Timofey’s younger brother Anatoly.

He had been separated from his three other siblings who were sent to an orphanage. 

‘We were forced to part,’ he said, explaining he was raised by an uncle.

Anatoly sent a message for Oles to take back to his lost relative, telling how the hermit’s sisters had preyed in church that he would be found one day. 

‘I have been searching for you,’ he said. 

Sister Natalia


Sister Natalia


sister Natalia

Elder sister Natalia.

‘Our sister was crying, going to church and praying that would be found one day. 

‘Let’s get in touch! 

‘Our elder sister Natalia lives in Moscow region.

‘She has three children, she lives in a village…

‘Nadezhda went to live in Tomsk (and has) a big family. 

‘I am married with three sons. 

‘I will surely come to see you. 

Inside the hut


inside the hut

‘What else do I need here in the taiga? Tea, oil, flour. All the rest is running right there, go and catch.’

‘You can hide from me in a city but surely not in the taiga….

‘Please say if you need something.’

Natalia could scarcely believe he had been found. 

‘Timka (Timofei), if this is you, I am your elder sister…’ she wept.

‘Please let us know if this is really you….?’

Now they all hope for a reunion after a lifetime apart.

Comments (8)

There are no Siberian Tigers in the Yakutsk region. The Tigers are found in the Amur district much farther South. There are so few left, sadly, lets hope the few who remain are preserved
Mary-ann white, brighton -united kingdom
14/04/2019 20:08
0
0
"...all a human needs to survive is tea, oil, flour, two dogs, and a cat!" and smokes. don't forget the smokes.
Anne Onymuss, Kalamazoo/USA
01/04/2019 06:46
0
0
Great story . No social justice crap , no LBGTUVWXYZ insanity , no gay rights parades . Just a simple peaceful existence . Though , I wonder about siberian Tigers and Almastis .
Theodore Martin, Sioux falls , South Dakota ,USA .
10/03/2019 18:12
3
3
How remarkable, a strong human drops out and survives all these years in the coldest part of the world just living a loner life...he and his animal friends. God Bless you brother-man with many more years and may the reunion with your siblings bring you joy and gladness to your heart....
Ozzie Finley Sr, Mason County West Virginia
19/01/2019 18:24
7
0
How do you send foodstuffs to him? I would like to give him tea, oil, flour, and the like. This is my wish.
Werner, USA
18/01/2019 08:13
7
1
I wish Timofey a continued long, healthy, happy and peaceful life in his spectacular natural surroundings and home. I am happy for his family as well that they know he is doing fine and I hope everyone can be at peace now.
Pamela K Tetarenko, United States
15/01/2019 17:51
9
0
How remarkable...all a human needs to survive is tea, oil, flour, two dogs, and a cat!
Valli Pherson , USA
10/01/2019 03:35
11
1
It is not an uncommon impulse. In the not-far past, gradations of it were a common choice. Mass-Society, meet Human Diversity.
,
09/01/2019 00:26
9
1
1

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