Woman Isolated for Decades in Siberia Emerges

70-year-old Agafia Lykova used a satellite phone to get help from the 'mainland'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2016 6:46 AM CST
Updated Jan 23, 2016 12:43 PM CST
Woman Isolated for Decades in Siberia Emerges
In this photo taken March 15, 2015, a Nenets man rides a reindeer sled in the Russian city of Nadym, about 1553 miles northeast of Moscow.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

In 2013, Smithsonian told a fascinating story: the tale of a family of six who lived deep in the Siberian wilderness for 40 years with zero contact from other humans—and no awareness of WWII—until geologists found them in 1978. Now, the last surviving member of that family has emerged from the wilderness using an emergency satellite phone to ask for help with leg pain. Agafia Lykova, 70, was airlifted to a hospital in Tashtagol, reports the Guardian. The youngest of four, Lykova was born in 1945 to parents who were Old Believers, a sect that broke from the Russian Orthodox church in the 17th century, reports RT.com. Her father, Karp, fled with his wife and then two children in 1936, and they built an existence that Radio Free Europe reports sat a two-week trek from the nearest hamlet, using what little was available—mushrooms, potatoes, a spinning wheel they'd lugged all the way there.

Geologists stumbled upon the family's outpost when Lykova was in her 30s, and people began to send provisions she'd never seen, such as bread and milk. While she has chosen not to relocate—"It's scary out there; you can't breathe," she's said of the pollution, which she experienced when touring the nation a few years after her discovery—she doesn't resent outside contact. "I don't know if we would have survived [without it]," she told Vice in a 2013 interview. "We were running out of tools and food. I no longer had any scarves." In hard times she survived on tree bark and reportedly ate her own shoes, and her mother, Akulina, starved to death in 1961 to allow her children to live. Lykova has been alone since her father died in 1988. She's expected to stay in the hospital for roughly a week, having suffered from cartilage deterioration, reports Komsomolskaya Pravda. (See how her family first reacted to TV.)

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