Siberian hermit lady lives with eight cats

Siberian hermit lady Agafya

Siberian hermit lady Agafya – Photo by Igor Shpilenok

She lives deep in Siberia, a full two day trip along rivers from the nearest civilisation. She lives alone with eight cats two nanny goats, a male goat, a rooster, hens and a dog. I wonder if you can call the cats “Siberian cats”. You may have heard of the Siberian pedigree cat in the West.

She has lived alone since her father Karp died in in 1988 and does everything herself. All the other family members who lived together have died. Her siblings died in 1981 and her mother in 1961.

She was born in the house she lives in and is 69 years old and she is lonely for a Christian human companion.

“With tears and cry we beg you, in the name of Christ, not to leave me alone and pay mercy to an orphan in need. There must be Christians around.”

She is a old-fashioned practicing Christian and on the day that the church honours the prophet Elijah she forbade visitors – that she rarely receives – from working.

Her father decided to live deep into the Siberian forest to escape Stalin’s oppression. He built a sturdy house from wood from the forest which she maintains and lives in, in the freezing winters. In the summer she lives in a fragile DIY wooden hut with some plastic sheeting.

Agafya's summer hut

Agafya’s summer hut. The cat appears to be a tortoiseshell. Photo by Igor Shpilenok

As mentioned, she does get visitors from time to time. What can you say? She is an awesome woman and she cares for cats. That’s why her story appealed to me. That and the fact she is as strong mentally and physically as the mountains she lives in.

Woob built Siberian home

The home – Photo: Igor Shpilenok

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Siberian hermit lady lives with eight cats — 36 Comments

  1. This brings tears of joy and sorrow. Look at how she consoles the tortie, who seems to be guarding her from the visitors, esp. the one with the camera. It is amazing, her strength and compassion.

    • Well said Cal. Her cats are genuine Siberian cats. She is amazing. Very strong because all her siblings died relatively young. Not sure how they died.

  2. What an amazing story. I understand she is reaching out for a Christian to come live with her because she is lonely. The fact that she lived without other humans for 21 years is amazing.

  3. She is lonely indeed for human companionship–someone to give her dialogue. Someone to share with back and forth. History, love, passion, hardship, joy. Eight cats, one dog, two annies, one rooster, hens and one billy. Goat milk, eggs, chicks, rarely meat. unneutered/castrated male? Predators? You can guess. The flora I see in the photo is alliums, nettles.edible berries,–she has a spear atop her entry into the summer? tent, as well as two pails, fairly new, one covered for milk, and a “canning” pot there in the back, possibly used for peeing in the cold months, I don’t know. Now that I’ve studied the two photos, I’m going to have to find her… She is beautiful! <3

  4. From what I can gather, Igor Shpilenok may have traversed there alone, on horseback? His photography is beautiful and so lovingly provocative.

      • It sounds like she is working for people for company. Do you have a link to this – where you found it? I lived similarly for about 2 years with a small outing in the middle, in the mountains in India. Not in a place like her summer shack, but in a little wood hut that had nothing in it excapt a bed frame. I loved it but I wasn’t 2 days away, I was about a 6 hour walk up the mountain away. Easily and by far the most beautiful nature, sunrises and sunsets and high altitude mountains I have ever seen.

        I’d love to know a bit more – like how the photographer found her, where she is etc….

          • Thanks Michael – so she is known and has visitors several times a year. The house is really quite big. The landscape is amazing. I’ll see if I can find where exactly it is. Google maps won’t have the detail needed in that area to see her place – I suspect.

            Sounds like there is also a man with one leg living not far away! So she isn’t 100% alone by any means. But maybe the man with one leg who is nearby is not a christian?

            I apologize but it’s a shame she is christian. This might be causing her to be unhappy – but equally it could also be keeping her happy – hard to say – but I would feel alot more free without it.

            I wonder how the hel the cats got out there.

            Does anyone have any idea how the cats and animals got there? If they aren’t descendants – brought from civilisation?


            • Regarding the cats, perhaps a visitor brought a male and female and they had kittens! It could be as simply as that. I’d be surprised if 8 cats were individually brought to her travelling for two days by boat etc.. Too much.

              You’ll probably find she has 16 cats next year 😉

              • I think that I could hear purrs at 12:20, a prelude to seeing her cats at 13:00, as she talks about them, in the video. She mentions that she gave one, frozen cat treats, a mistake, and he got very sick. It is believed that her siblings died from pneumonia contracted from contact w/the geographers who came in, all within three wks of each other. Her mother died of suicide (1961) by not eating, so that her children could eat. [It’s ~38 minutes in entirety.] The origins of some of the animals are revealed.

                There is a map showing their location at 08:00.

            • I’m surmising she had a female that had kittens, maybe given to her at one point. I haven’t had time to dig that far yet. There are several youtube videos on her Taiga Life, which you probably already found (I was digging through translated comments and discovered them). VICE from the U.S. is endeared to her. Just key in ” Agafia Lykov ” and many videos come up. It is enriching to hear her actual words.

              and here, the full-length with a slideshow as well:

          • Ok I have found out more – this lady is famous. For a start. A man wrote a book about her. He wrote about his visits with her over the years for a local newspaper and compiled this into a book. His book can be downloaded here – the one called “Peskov_V.M._Taejnyy_tupik.(1990)” further down the list.

            The photographer who took the -photos we have seen also wrote his own article on this particular visit. Here:

            I studied Russian so I know words like cat – but with the help of google translate and some time I might be able to find out exactly how the cats got there. I want to know. Clearly they weren’t just existing out there by themselves before the humans arrived.

            Another important thing to note is that it takes 2 days to get there by speedboat and hovercraft. This means that it probably took them a good week to get there on foot. In 1930 this would have meant guaranteed isolation. They were discovered in the 70s when a plane flew over.

            Now i also hope to find an idea of the location too. The Russian texts have more details and place names.

          • I also wonder what the cats eat. They must eat meat. This lady can’t possibly be eating much meat unless she has a shotgun or something. My guess. So what are the cats eating in winter when I have a feeling they can’t be out and about catching mice? I am assuming in the summer they catch little animals like mice.

  5. Agafya must be a very strong lady to be able to live alone and care for her cats and other animals and do everything that she has to do.
    I’ve sometimes thought how good it would be to live somewhere amongst nature, miles from any neighbours and I suppose it was a good life when her family were alive, but to be all alone like she is must be very frightening at times. I wouldn’t want to be so alone.
    I hope she soon finds a companion or he or she finds her way to her.
    Caroline is right, she is beautiful.
    She is living a pure and simple life but the price is loneliness.

  6. Turns out she won’t touch anything with a barcode on it. She feels that these are symbols of the devil. I found an interesting analogy of this fact here: – you will need to translate it. It talks about the relationship between the value and the aesthetic representation – using the number 666.

    She also has a whole library of books from the pre communist times – religious orthodox christian books.

    Helicopters have landed there many times over the years.

    I must admit I am completely drwn to this.

    • I wondered if her fear or loathing of barcodes was connected to the Stalin era. Some sort of labelling of people with numbers. Her father took the entire family out of society into the wilderness.

      • Michael – my surname is Russian and it was the name of a village in Siberia ‘next to water’ – otherwise translated as ‘flows like water’ in modern Russian. But my father’s side of the familly originated in Siberia – and moved eventually to Odessa and then to Moscow – my grandfather grew up in Moscow and moved to Leningrad before leaving Russia and going to Paris in the early 1900s.

        So I have a fascination with this part of the world.

  7. A fascinating and hard working woman; very resourceful, I’m sure.
    She looks good at 69 and is, obviously, very fit.
    I’m sorry that she feels so lonely. Maybe she thinks a christian companion would be safer than someone else.
    I wonder if supplies are dropped to her now and then. The buckets look quite new, and the cat looks healthy.

  8. Oh what a brave and strong woman and what a lonely life she leads, I wonder if she sits at night and remembers when all her family were alive, I wish she could find love or companionship and I’m a bit concerned how she will manage alone when she is older.

    • Yes she is brave and strong but I think it is too tough. The cats are vulnerable really because if she falls ill the cats might suffer. That is not to criticise her, just a thought.

      • And a very good thought, she and the animals are all vulnerable, and if she had an accident and couldn’t get help for herself and the animals then it would be a disaster. Perhaps if it’s all she’s ever known she feels safe there but I would be absolutely scared out of my wits at the responsibilty

        • I don’t see her ever leaving willingly.
          So, I think it’s essential that she has a companion, someone for company and safety purposes.

  9. I find myself completely drawn to the first photograph there is a sort of raw honesty to it. I wonder about some of the things she has lived through such as the death of her siblings. I think she is scared of dying alone.

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