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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 visiting my relatives, soon be back to my native Budapesht. I did saw the documentary and by accident,
I found this great article, I am sobbing again like with documentary. This lady has so much humanity in her,
I really admire her. Also her friendhip w. mr. Sedov. Her soul is rich she has very honest face. I do believe very strongly that shelove animals and they love her too. Animals are NEVER dumb, they sense love and caring.
I would really like to see the interaction between them. I ADORE ALL WARM BLOODED ANIMALS and also
DECENT human beings the same. I was NEVER a fan for greed nor being rotten to other nationality people.
GOOD decent people are WORLDWIDE, so are the bad ones, those I don't want in my near. Skin, hair color, nationality ect... is NOT an agenda w. me. Good and decent is, what I always did appreciate, nothing else.
This lady is one of them. Wish her speedy recovery and long life ! She deserve it w. her animal friends.
Happy NEW YEAR to her and to YOU ALL out there !
Rita, Budapest Hungary
17/01/2016 06:52
Someone should teach her to make bread.
Glen Dixon, Jurupa Valley, CA, USA
17/01/2016 06:33
This is a wonderful example of someone who is comfortable within herself. She has lived 28 years alone with her animals. She has her basic life & daily routines to fill her time. There is a soft look etched on her face. One of contentment & happiness. She has all she needs. This woman, I would say is the strongest in the world! What she doesn't have, she doesn't need & can live without. I would like to find out more about Agafya & what is known about her & her family. God has blessed her & continues to guide her with the friends she has made to help her out. I pray she continues to heal & can return to her little habitat very soon.
Cindy Granger, Miles, Texas USA
17/01/2016 05:30
That is the most incredible story I have ever read. My prayers are with this woman and I only hope that is she decides to go back to her home in the mountains that nobody stops her. She obviously feels safer there than in civilization, and sometimes I really don't blame her. I have often thought of doing the same thing but don't have the courage to live like that.

I sure wish I did though, God Bless her.
Susan Croome, British Columbia Canada
17/01/2016 04:33
I cannot say why, but I found tears running down my cheeks and sobs in my throat when I finished reading this story. And I think she is not alone, but has all the animals that she most likely lives in harmony with. American Indians used to communicate with animals. I don't she why she wouldn't. I am so glad that Russians finally have the great leader they deserve, one who protects his people and his animals.
Janis Schmidt, North Dakota, USA
17/01/2016 01:19
Thank you so much Siberian Times for the update about this fine woman. She is one tough cookie and is a natural-born survivor. We pray that God will touch her making her completely well again so she may return to the only place she knows as home and to her faith. She is an inspiration to all of us folks who live in the lap of luxury and cannot do without a can opener. God be with this fine Russian Woman of the old faith.
Ozzie Finley, Point Pleasant, WV U.S.A.
15/01/2016 20:41
Hope Agafya gets well soon. God blesses her and governor Tuleyev.
Rudike, Meeuwen / The Netherlands.
15/01/2016 05:19
Siberian Times, thank you for this update on Agafia. She is a remarkable woman who has continually demonstrated the power of deep personal faith against all odds. We need to hear more of this as it inspires all to also stand firm with their deepest conviction against all odds. Governor Aman Tuleyev and Mr. Vladimir Makut - thank you and your staff for taking care of Agafia. May God bless you.
Lund, /
15/01/2016 04:24
This is a good story with this woman getting practical help. I feel bad that she has lost her family but glad that she has a caring friend in the deputy. She has her own home and faith. She has Sustainable farm.
zoedeo, American Indian Country
14/01/2016 22:18
Thank you, Siberian Times for this post. Any news about Agafya is always welcome. I am one of her fans, and she has been one of my inspirational figures since I read about her. A woman so brave, so hardy, and for many years, so contented and uncomplaining in an unforgiving corner of the world. It is good to hear she's now OK and that her pains are gone. I, for one, do not think the phrase "loneliest woman" applies to her. She maybe alone in her homestead, yes, but not lonely. As an Old Believer, her God is always with her, and will comfort and sustain her in her hour of need. May she survive and continue her chosen mode of living for many more years to come. Blessings and praises to Governor Aman Tuleyev and Mr. Vladimir Makuta for making sure Agafya is all right in her home and helping her out when required.
E. Espinosa, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
14/01/2016 19:40

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