Monday, January 18, 2016

Hermit Meets 21st Century After Being Flown To Siberian Hospital

A 70-year-old hermit who has spent her entire life in the Siberian wilderness has been introduced to the 21st century after being airlifted to a hospital for leg pain. Agafya Lykova was born in the wilderness after her family fled civilization in 1936, The Guardian reported. On Wednesday she called for help using an emergency satellite phone and said she had pain in her leg, according to a release from the Kemerovo regional government.

She found her physical movements dangerously restricted from the pain, amid winter temperatures that can dip to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. A helicopter flew her to Tashtagol hospital, about 600 miles north of Kazakhstan and the Mongolian border. The region's governor, Aman Tuleyev has long provided aid to the hermit, whose last family member died in 1988.

Lykova's remarkable story first surfaced in the late 1970s after geologists flying overhead discovered her remote family, the Siberian Times reported. When contacted, her family reportedly had no idea World War II had started or ended. The family of six had relied solely on the land after her father, mother and two oldest siblings fled civilization to escape the Stalinist USSR and religious persecution roughly 80 years ago. The family are "Old Believers," a sect that split off from the Russian Orthodox Church. In the wilderness, Lykova's parents had two more children; Lykova was the youngest of two boys and two girls.

"The Old Believers were being killed because of their beliefs. Children were losing their fathers," she told Vice News during an interview at her home in 2013. "That's when we removed ourselves from materialistic society and stopped any contact with it." With her father’s death in 1988, she became her family's sole survivor. Then last May, her one friend, neighbor and fellow hermit, 77-year-old geologist Yerofei Sedov, died, leaving her entirely alone. Sedov’s son told the Siberian Times that Lykova helped bury him.

“She did the right thing. He died but it was rather warm weather so I’m sure she didn’t have to wait until someone arrived to take his body. I'm grateful for that, since now he will forever be on his treasured Yerinat,” he told the paper. Lykova is expected to remain at the hospital for evaluation for a week before returning home, according to local papers.