Girl walked 8 km all alone in minus 34C from remote family home to report her beloved grandmother's death, and beg help for blind grandfather.
'It was very cold and I was so hungry. But I wasn't scared. I was just walking, walking, walking. And I finally got there.' Picture: Tere-Khol administration
Little Saglana Salchak has spoken for the first time about her sad 6 hour trek through treacherous snow drifts with wolves around to get to a neighbour's home from her grandparents' remote farmstead.
Miserable at finding her 60 year old grandmother 'cold', she was sent to call for help by her grandfather Borbak who is totally blind. He did not realise the time he told her to make the walk: it was 5am, a pitch dark.
The four year old took matches, which she could use to light a fire, and followed the tracks of a horse sled, partly on a frozen river, which she knew led to the neighbour's home.
The four year old took matches, which she could use to light a fire, and followed the tracks of a horse sled, partly on a frozen river. Pictures: Yury Darbaa
'It was very cold and I was so hungry,' said the intrepid girl. 'But I wasn't scared. I was just walking, walking, walking. And I finally got there.'
Desperately upset at the death of her grandmother, there is now the possibility that her mother Eleonora, 31, will face up to one year in jail for leaving the child with her grandparents.
The grandmother was known to have health problems and they could 'not ensure the safety of the child', says the Investigative Committee in Tuva. The girl is now in care, after a hospital stay to overcome hypothermia.
A social worker said: 'Saglana is an open-minded, intelligent and tender girl. We are proud that a small heroine from the taiga is growing up here. We treat her like our own daughter, and kiss and hug her each day.
Brave Saglana with her mother Eleonora, 31. Pictures: NTV, Yury Darbaa
'After all, not every 4 year old child manages to perform the feat that she accomplished. She becomes sad when someone recalls her grandma. She is very upset by her death.
'To help distract her from grieving, we have organised a campaign:'Let's help Saglana!'. And complete strangers have already sent a lot of gifts to her.'
On 1 March, soon after her epic hike, she celebrated her 5th birthday. In May, she is due to go with her mother to a health resort, in a trip organised by the head of Tuva republic, Sholban Kara-ool.
Saglana (second from the right, sits on the lap of local official Sayana Chypsyn) and her mom Eleonora (first from left) in social centre. Picture: Tere-Khol administration
Semen Rubtsov, head of the search and rescue in Tuva, praised the girl's survival instincts.
'Shepherd's children are more prepared to such extreme situations than kids who live in the cities,' she said. 'They learn to ride a horse as soon as they start walking. And can manage great distances.
'Children who live in the taiga with their parents, or grandmothers and grandfathers, wander around and know the dangers for them.'
He said: 'This girl acts as a professional already. She took the matches to light a fire in case she needs. The difficulty was that she had to make her way through snowdrifts.
'There also was a great danger - wild animals. Bears are hibernating now, but Tuva is crowded with wolves. They plague the cattle, and shepherds groan because of them. In the dark she could easily have stumbled on a pack.
Semen Rubtsov, head of the search and rescue in Tuva, praised the girl's survival instincts. Picture: The Siberian Times
'This girl was lucky that she did not meet them. Her only hope would have been to climb a tree.'
He said she had 'quickly' reached the neighbours who sounded the alarm.
'She knew her way and moved with good speed. It was even easier for her than for an adult to go. Now it is warm in daytime, and the snow melts, but it freezes at night and there is a crust on the surface. Her weight meant she did not break the crust.
'She was dressed very warmly.. ... clothes made of sheepskin. Warm felt boots with sheepskin against the feet. And it was not extreme cold by our standards, only minus 34C. This is generally a warm winter.'
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