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Mike Carter, The Observer, 2009

Back to the wilderness for remarkable hermit Agafya Lykova after hospital treatment

By The Siberian Times reporter
20 January 2016

Aged 71, she shuns civilisation and accepts a helicopter ride back to her home in remote Siberia, without a gun to protect her from bears.

Agafya Lykova met with Kemerovo region governor Aman Tuleev. Picture: Administration of Kemerovo region

Cured of leg pains, the indefatigable Agafya, her fame now stretching around the world, on Wednesday flew back to the place she calls home, where she was born during the Second World War into a family of Old Believers who had fled Soviet repression to live in the forest.

The previous week, she had been rushed to hospital after complaining of acute discomfort in her remote farmstead - more than 100 kilometres from the nearest village. 

Hardly ever in her life had she left this home in the wilderness, where her family - all now dead - had sought sanctuary from religious persecution.

But after treatment at Tashtagol hospital in Kemerovo region, she opted to return to the mountainside above the Yerinat River - where she is under threat from wolves and bears, and also winter cold which she has described as 'unbearable'.

Her recent stay in hospital reported by The Siberian Times led to stories around the world. But now our picture shows the reclusive woman on her way back home, on a helicopter provided by Aman Tuleyev, governor of Kemerovo region. 

Agafya Lykova in hospital


Agafya Lykova in hospital

The previous week, she had been rushed to hospital after complaining of acute discomfort in her remote farmstead. Pictures: Efir-T

She is concerned for her chickens and goats, and also for an Old Believer called Georgy who has come to live with her to help her in her lonely vigil.

Before leaving, she presented the governor with mittens made of goat wool. But she rejected his suggestions that she should stay in hospital for a month to better improve her health. 'No way, no way, I worry about my household, and Georgy. I need to rush there.' 

The governor asked if Georgy had a gun to protect her from a bear, but she would not hear of it. 'Well, think it's quite dangerous to give him a gun,' she said. In the summer a bear dug into the grave of her dead neighbour Yerofei, she said. 

For most of her life, she has lived like a peasant from the 19th century with hardly any modern comforts. But the governor handed her a warm scarf and jacket, and has ensured she has supplies of medicine, new porcelain, a chainsaw, wheat, rice and barley), as well as flour, sugar, and feed for her animals. 

Agafya Lykova


Agafya Lykova


Agafya Lykova

Before leaving, she presented the governor with mittens made of goat wool. Pictures: Vesti.ru

'Great Agafya, you are as beautiful as ever, so I wish you good health,' said the governor. She offered him her 'great appreciation' for helping her. She told journalists before leaving: 'I feel better.' She could now 'at least stand on my legs'.

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. 

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'.

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

For most of her life, she has lived like a peasant from the 19th century with hardly any modern comforts. Picture: Alexander Kuznetsov/Krasnoyarsky Rabochiy

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. 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.

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

Over the years they retreated deeper into taiga, building a series of wooden cabins amid the pine trees. Pictures: Igor Nazarov, Igor Shpilenok, Vladimir Makuta

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.

Comments (58)

What a compelling life story! I feel I must follow this woman's story now. She reminds me of the story of Ishi, the last Yahi Indian in California. Similar view of life although he was forced into living in civilization. I wish her good health, peace, and the Lord's blessing on the rest of her days.
Alyson, Vancouver WA, USA
13/12/2016 11:35
13
0
I just discovered her in YouTube and went to Wikipedia to find out about her leg. I'm so happy to read that she got better enough to have gone back. Much respect to the government that is looking out for the living legend. I will continue to search articles about her...
Yuka, Japan
26/11/2016 23:21
20
0
I read that someone had built her a new house and now, with Georgy to help her, it sounds like her life iw a lot more comfortble. Does anyone have any udtes for how she is doing? Does she truly have a caretaker? How is her new house? Is she warm enough? Does she have enough food?
Aloisia Schmid, Boston, MA
07/11/2016 02:23
24
6
Incredible woman, incredible strength.... I read a lot about you Agafia...sending prayers from my home to your's
Lynn, Saskatoon SK Canada
23/10/2016 08:17
15
0
Agafya is one lovely, lovely lady she comes over as being so loving, gentle and kind. I would love to be able to meet her but I just know that it's just not possible but I shall keep on following her for as long as the Internet allows me to follow her. There are plenty of people who could do with having some of your qualities or even just one it would make them a better person.. you have too many good qualities for anybody to match you. I'm so pleased you got your leg sorted out and that you are now dressed in your new clothes ready for your return back home. Your cats will be really pleased to have you home. Please please take care. M. Smithson.
Mandy Smithson, England United Kingdom
04/10/2016 23:20
12
0
It's wonderful to hear about Ms. Agafia. She is a great woman with who love and care mother nature. It's us with dangerous instincts to exploit the our nature by means of modern comfort. She remind me toof, what we exactly need. I'm very much optimistic about some day will come when we'll learn what we need most.
Saeed Zakir Husaien, Guwahati, India
03/10/2016 09:44
10
0
To me it's totally normal to be so independent and to make do with what you have got as this lady has shown she is happy with where she lives away from all what modern society has created within them selves with no end in sight war poverty racism power greed hate she is a tough person with love in her heart thanks
Alex pazman, West hoxton Sydney australia
04/09/2016 16:35
10
0
What an incredible human you are Agafya! I have read and seen everything available about you and I am humbled and inspired by your gentle, positive nature, in spite of all the hardships you have had. In my dreams, I have been with you on your homestead, helping you and training your dog so that she could be a true companion and not eat your butter :) If I had the money, I would hire young people to help you, to tend to your garden, your animals and cut all the wood necessary to keep you warm. We will probably never meet but I carry you in my heart every day and send you love, love and more love.This world has much to learn from beautiful souls like you!
Andrijana, Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada
28/07/2016 20:35
24
4
N 51 27' 38" E 88 25' 37" Not very crowded there, and no problems with neighbors.
Darwin, USA
26/01/2016 08:10
15
0
hopefully this was not only a once only PR stunt of the Governor. and that these two old and good people will be taken care off up in mountains. so they can live there last years in peace and not to have to many worries.
Benedikt, Moscow,Russia
22/01/2016 09:24
14
0
What a wonderful antidote for all the usual news concerning the stock market, terrorism, housing crisis etc. Thank you for simply being, Babushka - you've reminded many of us what's important and what's not.
Sasha Smirnoff, Chelsea, Canada
21/01/2016 10:12
27
0
Good news. Props and much kudos to the very capable doctors responsible for Agafya's return of good health, and speedy and complete recovery. She looks calm, and well-cared-for. It is not surprising that she would return to her "taiga" home. "Home is where the heart is". I expect she'll have a good "reunion" with friend and helper Georgy and her beloved animals. Living off the grid and outside the system, her life style and way of life is pretty hard and tough. Thank goodness, her family imparted survival skills that enable her to live and endure in such a hostile place. What steadfastness, resilience and staying power! A "hermit", she may be, but she has not lost her humanity, and rejoices in small pleasures. May the coming days (though cold and chilly) be full of sunshine and blue skies for her. Long live Agafya!
E. Espinosa, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
21/01/2016 03:05
27
0
This is wonderful news! Great to hear that Agafia has recovered well enough to return to her home and also that another Old Believer - Gregory is there with her to help. Governor Aman Tuleev - it was very nice to see your photo with Agafia and one can clearly see the deep and sincere sense of caring shared. Not easy to see this type of sincere feeling between politicians and citizens on a one to one human level - salutations to you Sir! Agafia, you are a very inspiring person and your firm stand on convictions and belief will continue to inspire all. What a wonderful episode in Siberia's and Russia's pages.
Lund, USA
21/01/2016 00:53
26
2

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