From a letter by Agafya Lykova, a seventy-year-old hermit living in the Siberian province of Khakassia, to Vladimir Pavlovsky, editor in chief of the Krasnoyarsk Worker newspaper, which published the letter online earlier this year. Agafya is the last surviving member of the Lykova family, who moved to the area in 1936 and remained uncontacted until 1978, when a team of geologists came upon their huts. It is unclear how Agafya, who, with the exception of Yerofei Sedov, her one-legged neighbor, lives more than seventy-five miles from other dwellings, managed to post the letter. Following its publication, Aman Tuleyev, the governor of the neighboring Kemerovo region, pledged to send a helicopter with food and supplies. Translated from the Russian by Sophia Kishkovsky.
With a low bow to you from us, Agafya Karpovna and Yerofei Sozontevich, we wish you good health, and above all the salvation of your soul and blessings from the Lord God. We also send the highest regards to all Krasnoyarsk workers.
We have a great request. We need a person to help us, for there are good people; the world is not without decent people. With tears and wailing I beg you, for Christ’s sake, don’t abandon me, have mercy on this suffering orphan. For there are still Christians on earth.
Help is needed with firewood, the garden, and cutting hay. I am very old, my health is bad, and my head spins. A lump has grown on my right breast. I have no strength at all. I don’t know how God will get me through the winter.
My house has no firewood. I have to drag it over here every day, and read psalms while doing it. I’m so out of breath I feel I’m suffocating, and in this frost I fear I’ll catch my death. The big stove stands frozen in my hut, because there is no time to stoke it, nor any firewood besides. Just cold iron.
While I had my family, when they were all alive, there were enough of us to do it all — to stoke the stove and to cook in it, to pray the nocturne together. Someone worked and someone cooked but another always stayed to pray. Until prayers were done, we didn’t do any work outside. We prayed all together on holidays.
But now I’m all alone. I need to pray and tend the garden all by myself. I can’t finish prayers, there’s no time for it, or for the daily tasks I need to do to survive. I’ve spent more than thirty years begging and sending letters. The people who were here last winter said I needed a helper, the same this summer. But again no one came. So the hay remains uncut. I tried cutting it, forced myself to, but my health failed me. It was a rainy summer, and the fall was bad, too. The stream broke its banks and swept the food away. I barely dug up the potatoes. I write begging you not to put this off until spring.
My father, mother, brothers, and sisters all died. My forefathers, seven generations back, wait for my prayers. They’re all asking for my prayers. I’m all they have left. And what’s most frightening is that we’ll stand together at Christ’s second coming. If a person comes in March, best spend Easter here.
Ask Aman Gumirovich Tuleyev, while he’s still in power, to send someone over. They needn’t bring bedclothes, blankets, or pillows — we have them all waiting here — just a person. Bring seeds, whatever you can — carrots, cucumbers, maybe some turnips, onions. Number ten thread. It’s up to you.
Wishing you all good things. Until we meet. I’ll wait for you to bring someone.