What a life and, the life of one who flees Here, Karp Likov , the father of Agafia , the man who in 1936 decided to abandon civilized life and take refuge in Siberia in order to protect the country,
would certainly have to answer this question . his’ version of religion, that of the ‘ancient believers’, taking the whole family with him. A sect, it has been said and it has been written. Good. Agafia is now 77 years old, she still lives where she was born, on that rock of land placed opposite the river, buried in the taiga , almost three hours by helicopter from the first city worthy of the name, Abakan. Since the Likovs were found in 1978, a geological era has passed. The USSR is gone and Agafia has been left alone since 1988: father, mother and brothers, all dead. Now, from a media sensation, it has become something else: a monument. And meeting her is truly a privilege.
“Ah you and Italian, I haven’t seen one for at least 30 years”. Agafia speaks softly, a Russian very similar to a dirge, her teeth missing, her hands unmade and black (she doesn’t use soap, only water), the handkerchief tied on her head as her tradition commands. There is no way of knowing more about this ancient Italian, who he was, where he came from. Her mind is already elsewhere. Agafia knows how to get what she wants and she only responds to what she likes. The rest is passed over. She is very religious and it would not be strange if one day she were made a saint: she would be a modern saint for a contemporary Russia.Pope Karp flees to avoid the Stalinist persecution of ancient believers, a fundamentalist branch of orthodoxy that does not accept the reform implemented by Patriarch Nikon in 1653-1656 . Agafia in particular is part of the ‘beguny’ faction. And this implies a series of stringent limitations to nutrition and lifestyle in general. Until the Likovs were found by a group of Soviet geologists looking for gas, Agafia thus experienced a universe of prayer, sacred books, strict rules and family life – two brothers and an older sister. The Likovs didn’t even know World War II was over. Or started. Agafia, on the other hand, the modern world has seen it and didn’t particularly like it.
“Here I have my way of life, I don’t need anything else, if not prayers”, she confides when you tease her about what you think of our age. Where, for example, we still kill ourselves for reasons of worship. “There is only one religion, and even scary to think that there could be others”, she declares from the top of her zeal. But she seasons every sentence of her with a gentle smile, which lights up her face and clear eyes. The yardstick of her and hers, everything passes from there. Christ and surroundings. Russia venerates it for what it is, the national ‘babuska’, the Siberia-grandmother who still resists in the forest recess, which over the years has become a national park, now surrounded by helpers who allow her to live her last days with more ease. But always in her way. “In theory it would be forbidden to live here, because we are in a protected area,” explains Viktor Nepomniashi, head of the nature reserve. “But she was here long before it was even created, the reserve: it’s a national treasure.” Agafia and tough. She took Covid – even in the middle of nowhere in Chakassia the virus arrived – because of a reckless blogger, who evaded the rules in order to interview her. But she beat him without even getting treatment. Always for religious reasons.
“I hope I can live to be 80. After that I want to go to heaven: that is my next stop,” she says when you ask her if there’s anything she wants. In the meantime, however,Unbeknownst to her, she asked where this sudden aid came from . When they explained it to her, she thought it best to take a pen and paper and ask Deripaska for “a new house”. Which soon materialized. “It took almost 40 trips along the river but we built it,” says Ruben Bunyatyan of the Volnoe Delo foundation. “We followed the project designed by Agafia herself”. In other words, a dacha as a little girl might imagine it: with a pointed roof and square windows in the center of the sides. Now in this segment of the taiga there is a kind of village.
The new house, the old one built by Karp and where Agafia was born, two huts built by geologists after the discovery (one is under renovation), the shelter for the goats, the tombstone where the father was buried. In her grandmother-Siberia hands, she holds a satellite, a gift from the foundation, the latest model to replace the old one. Certain devilry is convenient. Politics is obviously not part of her horizon. If she shows her a picture of Putin she giggles and tells you “what’s on the calendars!”. Yes of course, even there. But you are mainly the president. You know he’s his president, right
He chuckles, doesn’t answer and passes on. There is bread to be made, as it was once done. You will leave, along with your smartphone that does not pick up a damn, and she will stay. In her world. A world that no longer exists and that will go away with Agafia.

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