72-Year-Old Woman Lives An Insane Hermit Lifestyle Deep In Siberia
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The rule says everyone should “love thy neighbor,” but that isn’t always easy. Truth be told, sometimes your neighbors simply drive you up the wall. Still, having neighbors beats living in the middle of nowhere, right?
For one Siberian woman named Agafia Lykov, who has lived alone in the wilderness since the 1940s, the solitude is just fine. Although, even deep in the woods and 160 miles from the nearest city, Agafia has her own set of daily problems to deal with.
Check out her incredible story below. You won’t believe how this woman has lived for decades. It’s really remarkable…
Far into the wilderness of East Russia, the region of Siberia stretches on for 5.1 million square miles. Known for unbearably frigid winters that frequently see temperatures around -13 degrees Fahrenheit, the territory is covered with snow, ice, and pine trees.
Peppered throughout the massive landscape, Siberia’s little cities are connected by the Trans Siberian Railroad. Any that happen to fall a long distance from the railroad’s stops are practically inaccessible.
Yet, despite every challenge Siberia presents, one woman has lived there all alone for decades. Isolated from the world, Agafia Lykov survives as a hermit in the Sayan Mountains—and she’s over 70 years old. How does she do it?
Like most homes without access to the Siberian Railway, Agafia’s is difficult to reach. It’s a whopping 160 miles from the nearest town and, even in summer, is only accessible by a seven-day canoe trip. In the winter, your only options are a helicopter ride or an inadvisable snowmobile trek.
With no electricity and zero access to running water, Agafia spends every day of her life doing tough, manual labor. But how did she come to live so far from civilization, all on her own?
Agafia’s parents, Karp (pictured below) and Akulina, were “Old Believers,” who were members of a sect of Christianity that formed after a 17th century schism within the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1937, fearing Stalin’s persecution of their faith, Karp and Akulina fled with their two children into deep Siberia.
The family settled in the very spot Agafia still lives in today, so far away from civilization that they were reportedly unaware of World War II. Agafia was born in 1944, seven years after her family’s initial flight from civilization. Meanwhile, the family endured unbelievable hardships…
In 1961, Agafia’s mother starved herself to death so that her family had enough food to survive. Still, the family continued living in total isolation until 1978, when a team of Russian geologists spotted the home from a helicopter. From there, the pain only continued as, years later, Agafia’s older siblings tragically died of pneumonia contracted by the visiting geologists.
Agafia’s life didn’t get any easier. Twenty-seven years after the death of her mother, her father passed away, leaving her alone on the Lykov homestead. For nine years, she once again lived in total isolation. That is until a Russian geologist, Yerofei, moved into a cabin just down the hill from her.
Agafia still follows the Old Believer religion, upholding the tradition that sent her family into the wilderness over 70 years ago. She owns an incredible, 300-year-old Bible, and Christian artworks decorate the walls of her home. But besides religion, what else makes up Agafia’s daily life?
Dangerous animals prowl all over Siberia. Bears, wolves, you name it: if it’s got sharp teeth and growls, it lives side-by-side with Agafia. To defend herself, she wields a rifle, of course. When she hears bears nearing the encampment, she fires off a few blanks to scare them away.
You aren’t going to find a hardware store at the Lykov homestead, so when Agafia needs supplies, she fetches them herself. This includes chopping logs and carrying the materials back home. It’s back-breaking work.
Navigating the snow alone can be treacherous. That’s why Agafia needs handmade snowshoes to get her from place to place. Made from planks and fastened with handmade rope, the snow shoes spread her weight more evenly across the surface of the snow.
Every other day, Agafia fetches a pail of water from a well dug into the ice and brings it to her nearby geologist neighbor, Yerofei. “Yerofei is not a good helper,” Agafia joked in an interview. Yerofei added: “I’m like a cow on ice.”
Agafia insists that the key to survival is hard work. Everything she does to survive, she does herself: she gardens, fishes, forages, and cuts and stacks firewood. The work has grown more difficult as she’s aged, but Agafia maintains her household with surprising vitality.
Besides Yerofei, Agafia has a few other companions. Her dog, Taiga, serves as a wild-animal alarm system, so to speak. When Agafia hears her pooch barking like crazy, she knows there’s something dangerous afoot, and it’s time to get the gun. She also has a cat.
One of the strangest aspects of her life is the occasional, invasive presence of the more modern outside world. For example, when the Soviets were in a desperate race to build and launch satellites, it wasn’t an unusual occurrence for failed space technology to end up crashing down into the snow.
Even with the struggles of her daily life, Agafia explained to her interviewers that she couldn’t live in the city even if given the opportunity to do so. She’s been to a city five times in her entire life. “There are so many cars now,” she explains. “You can hardly breathe.”
In 2016, a leg injury finally got the better of Agafia. She had to be airlifted to a Russian hospital in order to receive treatment. Once she could walk again, though, she returned to her home in Siberia.
At over 70 years old, Agafia Lykov works harder every day than most people half her age. It’s impressive that she has kept up her isolated life style for so long. Obviously, she is one tough lady!
Check out a VICE documentary outlining this woman’s incredible life below. It’s long, but seeing Agafia explain what it’s like to live so far from civilization is genuinely fascinating…
Agafia Lysov does incredible work to make sure she and her only neighbor can survive in the frigid tundra of Siberia. So what do you think—could you cut it there?
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