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Image of Agafya Lykova

Agafya Lykova lives alone in the Siberian forest

Solitude in Siberia

Agafya Lykova is a 70 year old woman who was born into isolation in the Siberian forest, where she has lived, 150km away from the nearest town, for her entire life. She did not encounter another human aside from her close family until the age of 40, and the last member of her family died 25 years ago. Since then she has lived alone. Hastings Filmmaker and owner of the Electric Palace cinema, Rebecca E Marshall, explains how you can help her bring Agafya’s story to the big screen.

I am seeking to raise support to film the remarkable story of Agafya Lykova, with my film project The Forest In Me. Find out how you can get involved in the project…

Agafya’s family history

Agafya Lykova, is an intelligent 70 year old woman with an unusual singsong voice. Her story starts in 1936, when her father, Karp Lykov, was persecuted for his religious beliefs as an ‘Old Believer’. He fled to the relative safety of the Russian wilderness with his family, and it was into this scene that Agafya was born, in 1943.

The family survived in wild conditions for three decades until a particularly harsh winter destroyed their crop and Agafya’s mother, Akulina, died of starvation.

Helicopter discovery

The remaining Lykovs continued their insular existence until 1978 when a group of geologists surveying the area by helicopter spotted the family’s cultivated land. These were the first outsiders the 35 year old Agafya had ever met. Tragedy struck soon after the departure of these visitors, when the family’s three eldest children died in quick succession, leaving only Agafya and her father. In 1988, Karp was the last member of her family to pass away.

For the past 26 years, Agafya has chosen to remain alone on the mountain slopes, with temperatures regularly dropping to -65F and bears and wolf packs are a constant threat. She owns no photographic records and pictures she has been offered of her family are rejected.

Agafya’s unique solitary life

I am a filmmaker based in Hastings, East Sussex. I have filmed and recorded aspects of my life and saved every letter from the age of 13 in 1989. I even used to print out text messages and early emails! Agafya’s story greatly appealed to me because at first she appeared to be my polar opposite – she communicates with no-one and lives an entirely solitary existence.

But as I began to learn more about Agafya and her life, I realised that perhaps we are not so different. Alone in the forest, Agafya draws. She draws pictures of animals and people from her life and even named her cat ‘Little Drawing.’ I began to grow a deep curiosity to explore her sense of time, faith and identity in her isolation, in contrast to my experiences in a world of mass communication.

How the film will be made

I have become compelled to visit Agafya to meet her in person and tell her story on screen. Her unique situation seems to me to be at once both a peaceful paradise and also a nightmare of loneliness.

It will be an epic journey during the winter months flying from Moscow 3400km across Russia, a four-hour train journey and finally an hour’s helicopter ride to Agafya’s isolated plot of land. She has sent word out in Russia that she needs some items of equipment that I can take to her.

I aim to make three visits over the next 18 months and make a film called The Forest In Me to explore the rhythm of her reality, her imagination, dreams and thoughts, and in parallel reflect on our contemporary lives. What do her drawings mean to her, who is she talking to? Do we all, as humans, have an urge to feel we are leaving some kind of individual legacy?

The Forest In Me will be a meditation on the nature of individual human identity in this isolated dreamscape of freezing snow and forest.

Pledge your support

If Agafya’s story has inspired you, and you’d like to help see her brought to life on the big screen, please support my campaign to help make this film possible.

Thank you!

Posted 14:10 Sunday, Sep 21, 2014 In: Film

1 Comment

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  1. Chandra Masoliver

    I have been to Russia often, and have a good friend from Siberia. I love the idea of your film and would like to support it.

    Comment by Chandra Masoliver — Thursday, Oct 2, 2014 @ 06:52

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