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Agafia’s Story: Old Hermit Who Lives In The Wilderness In Remote Siberia For 70 Years

Russian babushka Agafia, whose family fled civilization nearly a century ago, was born in the wilderness of the deep Siberian taiga. Agafia is the only living person of a family of the ‘Old Believers’ denomination of the Orthodox church.

In the mid-17th century, the leader of Russia’s Orthodox church, Patriarch Nikon, introduced radical reforms in Russia. Many couldn’t accept the changes and became known as ‘Old Believers.’

To avoid religious persecution first from the Orthodox Church and then from the Soviets, many families fled to some of the most remote corners of the country.

In 1978, one such family was discovered by a group of geologists in the remote Russian Republic of Khakassia, Siberia. The Lykovs, a family with four children, hadn’t seen other human beings for decades.

An RTD film crew – including director Pavel Baydikov, a winner of the New York Festivals World's Best TV and Films – traveled deep into the taiga, through floods, fallen trees, and a treacherous river, to meet the famous Old Believer. (Image Source)

Agafia – who is now almost 71 years old – was born in the wilderness, and the geologists were the first outsiders she had ever met. This came as no surprise to the geologists, as the family in the forest looked as though they belonged to the previous century, dressed in homespun clothes and using primitive instruments in their everyday lives.

Photo©RT (Image Source)
Photo©RT (Image Source)

They were completely self-sufficient and still highly religious. Only three years after they were discovered, three of the children fell ill and died. Agafia, whose father also passed away, is now the only remaining surviver of the now famous family of hermits.

Photo© Igor Shpilenok (Image Source)
The visitors also found that Agafya was living in her summer quarters, not her sturdy wooden house she occupies in winter, built by her late father. Photo© Igor Shpilenok (Image Source)

Working hard and praying all day, Agafia now lives on her own in the taiga, with bears trying to reach her humble abode regularly. The only person living nearby is a former drilling geologist, Yerofey Sedov, who was among those who discovered the Lykovs and told the world about them. Now relations between the only neighbors within some 200 miles are somewhat complicated.

Elsewhere in Russia, she might be sitting back and taking it easy as a pensioner but in her remote home, hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town, she works daily, pitting her wits against the extreme of cold and hot that mark the Siberian climate. Picture: Igor Shpilenok (Image Source)
Today Agafya - who lives according to her Old Believer religious principles - receives visitors several times a year, helping her with such tasks as providing firewood for the long winte (Image Source)
Agafya's patronymic refers to her father Karp Lykov, a devout Old Believer who took his family into the wilderness to escape the persecution they felt under Stalin. She was born in this remote wilderness in 1944 but it was not until 1978, some 42 years after they disappeared, that their primitive huts were spotted from the air in the Sayan Mountains by a party of Soviet geologists who then came to make contact with them. (Image Source)

Local authorities have tried to help Agafia, but reaching her remote home is quite a challenge. She is in desperate need of a helper, but no one seems willing to be cut off from the rest of the world.

featured image© Igor Shpilenok via Siberiantimes

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