During the 1930s, a Russian family fled so far into Siberia to escape religious persecution that they had no idea WWII had even happened. When the Lykovs were discovered by geologists in 1978, they lived 150 miles from the nearest settlement, and it had been 40 years since they’d spoken to another human being.

During the purges of the 1930s, a Communist patrol shot Lykov’s brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.    

Neither of the youngest children had ever seen bread before, nor had they seen a human being who was not a member of their family. They were born after the move, so all they knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents’ stories. The father was intelligible, but the daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation.    

After reaching the outside world, the family quickly declined. In the fall of 1981, three of the four children followed their mother to the grave within a few days of one another.  

The two survivors, father and daughter, rebuilt their camp and refused to leave the forest. When the father later died, Agafia still refused to leave the taiga.

As of 2016, she reportedly still lives there in complete isolation.

Photos: Smithsonian Mag

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