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Helicopter rescue for Russia's 'loneliest woman' who shuns modern civilisation

By The Siberian Times reporter
14 January 2016

Agafya Lykova, 71, airlifted to hospital after suffering 'acute pains' in intense cold at her forest home more than 100 km from nearest town.

Clasping her icons and spring water, the devout Old Believer was flown for treatment. Picture: Khakassky Nature Reserve

The reclusive hermit was rushed to  Tashtagol hospital in Kemerovo region on the personal orders of the governor of Kemerovo region, Aman Tuleyev.

Clasping her icons and spring water, the devout Old Believer was flown for treatment after getting a message to the outside world that she was in pain in her legs, restricting her movements. 

Previously Agafya has refused to be flown out of the forest home built by her parents - where she was born - after they opted out of the Stalinist USSR claiming religious persecution.

A source said: 'Now Lykova feels better. Doctors removed the acute pain. It is planned that she will stay at the hospital for examination and treatment for a week.'

Her family fled into the wilderness in 1936 and when they were discovered living off the land after being spotted from the air in the 1970s, they had no idea World War Two had started - or ended. 

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

Agafya Lykova, pictures by Igor Shpilenok

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

Despite this she is expected to ask to go back to the only home she has ever known - seen here in our pictures. Pictures: Igor Nazarov, Igor Shpilenok, Vladimir Makuta

Today she admits that the extreme winter cold on her lonely farmstead is 'unbearable' - with temperatures sinking to minus 40C - but she has repeatedly refused offers to live in a village or town where she could be helped. 

Recently she has been bothered by wild bears and foxes seeking food. Despite this she is expected to ask to go back to the only home she has ever known - seen here in our pictures. 

Her little plot is located close to a river about some 150 metres 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 family, with scientists reporting that Agafya spoke a strange blurred language 'distorted by a lifetime of isolation'.

Her father 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.

Gifts for Agafya

Gifts for Agafya

Vladimir Makuta, head of Tashtagolskyi district, brings gifts. Agafya and her favourite oranges. Pictures: Tashtagol district administration, Khakassky Nature Reserve

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.

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. The Lykovs subsided mainly on trapped wild animals and cultivated potatoes. They had no firearms, no salt and did not know how to make bread.

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 permanently at the little homestead.

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

Agafya is an Old Believer - a religious movement that splintered from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century, endured persecution both before and after the Bolshevik Revolution. Picture: Alexander Kuznetsov, Krasnoyarsky Rabochiy 

Kemerovo region governor Aman Tuleyev keeps an eye out for her, regularly delivering her provisions including cabbage, flour, grapes and her favourite oranges.

Vladimir Makuta, head of Tashtagolskyi district, said: 'It is important for us to know she has everything she needs, that she'll live another winter and will have food.'

Previously she has been supplied with salted cabbage and a bag with dried fruit, flour, sugar, candles, matches. Millet and oats were sent for Agafya's chickens, also hay for her goats. 

Agafya is an Old Believer - a religious movement that splintered from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century, endured persecution both before and after the Bolshevik Revolution. 

In hospital, Agafya has received gifts of fruit from the Kemerovo governor along with a scarf, felt boots, and clothes. 

Comments (40)

I am a African American woman and you are my Strong mother too
Michelle Barnes, Chicago United States
11/07/2019 00:53
I watched her documentary on Youtube...i really admire being a strong women who can live alone at Taiga and helping another guy living for 16 years as her neighbour . That is so incredible. Looking forward to know more about her in future. Hope she is doing fine and bless with good health.
Amy, Malaysia
21/02/2018 15:40
Melisa in Toronto: Just how many of the 326 million Americans do you know? Her family fled and still mankind dealt them a terrible blow of a lifetime of misery, hardship, and agony before dying. I can only assume that, given the chance, you would do the same to all Americans, even our children and babies. Killing an entire race or religion is not enough anymore, now it's entire countries.
Judy Parker, Memphis, TN USA
02/08/2017 11:57
Any updates please about this blessed woman?
Yoseph, Addis Ababa/Ethiopia
24/07/2017 11:58
She's a good human....I'm worried for her pets there..I watched her documentary on YOUTUBE.. STRONG Woman but I hate that guy though. WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY ON YOUTUBE!
Shetty, India
28/06/2017 18:03
I cannot believe how I had missed this story. A few hours ago, I was brought into the Smithsonian site. What a blessing that I get to know the story of the Lykovs -their faith, commitment, courage, endurance, love for each other, unity. They are martyrs for their faith. It's increasing my understanding of humanity that gives me this warm feeling to be able to empathize with this family. I feel I know them all just from having learned about their flight and plight and discovering God's purest domain -the wilderness.
Monserrat Mella Washburn, Levittown, NY
27/12/2016 23:26
I have been so very blessed by your life story. You are a very strong person, that draws strength from Jesus. May God Bless and keep you in his care. Cindy from Bixby Ok
Cindy, Bixby Oklahoma
16/12/2016 09:46
How We COuld help him becose i feel we Have to do something HE is STronGIESt womman i know!
10/12/2016 09:22
superwoman, which we all very much to learn
Jacques, Gullegem/Belgium
21/11/2016 23:21
reading all comments I have to say that Americans are just dumb. They just don't get it. She lives life that had been lived for thousands and thousands of years of human existence. Animals that live there on her farm are not 'domestic animals with a modern day farm standards' or 'house pets', but more resilient and natural/wild. Next, it just logical conclusion when she gets help otherwise that her animals get help otherwise why help her at all as she doesn't want to leave and could not adapt to modern day living anyway. Please don't worry as Russians have more humanity then whole F USA…..
melisa, Toronto, Canada
02/11/2016 23:54
I have followed this incredible holy woman in all the videos available. I believe her to be thee most amazing strong woman with great unwavering faith and that has carried her threw the challenges she and only she can face. Reminds me of The Vigin Mother Mary!!! May God continue to bless you and keep you close!
Jacqueline Sefton, Ohio...USA
01/08/2016 12:24
Dear Agafia,you are wonder woman.I know you are an old believer but please get help for the lump in your breast.The doctors will know what to do.How I wish I could come to you or at least get some care packages to you..Be sure you are right...Jesus is coming soon. The world does not love His ways and is easily led on the luxurious path of having much...bit you, Agafia will have beautiful paradise because you have suffered in this life God bless you with continued strength.and people to come and join you.End of transcript
Else Klavins, Australia
01/07/2016 08:03
I saw a documentary on this old woman and her cats living off the land in the taiga. Unbelievable. She is the definition of determination and strong will. I pray she's home now (it's June as I write this) and the government continues to look out for her. I was wondering if they looked at her breast tumor (the documentary said it was benign but painful and limited certain movements. Maybe they can shrink it?) what an incredible woman. Makes me look around at all my "stuff" and wonder what I really "need" to live a good life.
Diane Bednarz, Lincoln Park USA
26/06/2016 09:08
Une leçon de fidélité à sa Foi, de courage poussé à l'extrême, de simplicité souriante, de sincérité.
Ce petit bout de femme est un exemple pour nous tous.
Merci à ceux qui l'aident à la fin de sa vie tout en respectant ses choix.
Patrice, Moussac/France
04/05/2016 02:34
I love and pray for you with all the love of Jesus. I just heard your story. So very special your parents kept you from the world. God be with you and heal you.
Marjie, USA
18/03/2016 13:11

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