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'I love Siberian women, they are incredible'
French actress Carole Bouquet, 2014

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 watched the documentary on Agafia and was amazed how she could live alone in such a remote area. I'm also very concerned about that dog tied up outside with frozen water and the cats and goats. Can someone please tell me if they were taken care of when she was airlifted out of there? I really can't stop thinking about those poor animals.
Kate, Usa
04/02/2016 20:04
She does make bread.. her ovens....
Anne Kaczanowski, Canada
25/01/2016 10:57
I have been fascinated with Agafia and her family's story since I first read it over a year ago. I also pray for her and hope that she can remain in the tiaga for the remainder of her life. I believe at one point she was asking for help from a young person who would be willing to help her with chores and gardening, etc. It would be a tough life but, what an experience!
Juliet Morgan, Austin, Texas, USA
22/01/2016 23:48
So that's what really happy russian person looks like! She is free and she is beautiful in her simple expression. If you travel anywhere in public spot in Russia, you would be struck at how unfriendly people look. No smiles or very little. Anyone who lives there has little to be happy about, so it's no wonder. (wealthy russians don't count.)
Anna, Tujunga, CA
22/01/2016 21:14
An interesting story about a determined, strong, woman. I hope she continues to live a healthy and long life in whatever manner she wishes. I thank those who watch over her from afar for their help and care.
G. Cawood, Fair Oaks, CA
18/01/2016 10:12
10 (or so) years ago I read "Lost in the Taiga," fascinated by this family, always wondering if Agafya was

still alive, then all of a sudden here is her story! It would be good to have medical tests done while she is hospitalized to see how well her body has coped under such conditions. I too wish one could

send care packages (items without bar codes!) to be sure she gets all vital nutrients as she ages.

What a heart warming and deeply touching story.
LaVonne Heydel, Somerset, NJ, USA
18/01/2016 07:24
We could learn so much from this woman. She seems to be so happy and content. May God continue to bless her.
Sharlotte Fehmer, Oklahoma, USA
18/01/2016 07:18
Very interesting story. I wish the rest of her church members should be instructed to take over her birds and farmyard until she returns.
She has lots of experience that people of modern world need to tap from. Let the local government do that.
Mbakwe Moses, Abuja/Nigeria
18/01/2016 02:23
My best wishes to this woman. It would be wonderful if someone could assist her with chores of daily life while gleaning her unique knowledge and history.
R. Buttler, Arkansas, USA
18/01/2016 02:04
Glad she is doing better but I can't help but worry about the animals on her homestead. Who's taking care of them? Feeding & watering them? Making sure they are warm & safe? What is going to happen to them if she dies & they are penned up? All those cats, the goat, dog & chickens? Someone needs to trap the cats, alter them & rehome the majority of them. When she's gone they are going to be left to suffer & die. I can't believe that there's no one out there willing to live there & help her & care for her. The wealth of knowledge that will be lost with her saddens me. Someone needs to go & live there with her for a few years & make a record of her life, skills, wisdom & knowledge.
Jennifer M, USA
18/01/2016 01:03
I watched a few documentaries about her. She has multiple cats and a dog. (Which was kept tied up outside) My very first thought I had when I read that she had been taken to a hospital is that I HOPE they also rescued those poor animals and didn't leave them in the harsh winter alone..... :(
Jessica, USA
18/01/2016 00:49
I am distantly related to a man much like this lady and her family. He was my cousins grandfather. Look up Perley Swett, Stoddard, New Hampshire, USA. When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and the world did nothing, Perley moved to the mountain and lived there with his goats for the rest of his life. One of his granddaughters wrote a book about him that is for sale but there is plenty of stuff on line for free. Live Free or Die they say in New Hampshire. May there always be room for the Agafya and Perleys of this world, and people who honor and care for them!
Paige, Missouri, USA
17/01/2016 13:33
I think about her almost every day and ask God to watch over her. Wish there was a way to send her care packages very glad there is someone in government who is looking after her. Now that she is totally alone it must be very hard. I do understand however her reluctance to leave. She has not built up any resistance to the many outside illnesses which could kill her. We all need to keep her in our prayers.
sally seals, jerome michigan
17/01/2016 11:54
I've heard of her and her family before, and I am amazed by their story. I've always found Siberia and stories about it to be very interesting. I wouldn't be surprised to hear she went back to her home after she recovers in the hospital.
Christopher Nelson, Branford, CT USA
17/01/2016 11:47
I hope hope hope someone is taking care of her chickens and goats while she's in hospital. I cannot imagine this degree of isolation and how lonely she must be. Without her livestock, she will be out not only her companions but the necessary items they produce for her.
Violet, Portland, OR
17/01/2016 09:51

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