Agafya Lykova pictured with some space junk.
Tale of Siberian wilderness solitude filmed
A documentary showcasing the life of a Siberian cut off from society has been captured in a poignant film made with the involvement of a University of Exeter PHD student.
Rebecca Marshall, of the Film Studies programme, has profiled Agafya Lykova, a 70 year old woman born into the isolation of the vast Siberian Forest – The Taiga.
The documentary, The Forest In Me, looks to explore Agafya’s sense of time, faith and identity in her isolation, in contrast to a world of mass communication.
In 1936, ‘The Great Purge’ was enacted that looked to repress opponents of the Soviet regime. Agafya’s father, Karp Lykov, was persecuted for his religious beliefs as an Old Believer – a religious group that had separated from the Orthodox Church. They, like others, moved to sparse areas of the country in an attempt to avoid this purge on religion. Karp, his wife and their then two children moved into the wilderness, retreating deeper until settling and building a cabin deep into the Taiga.
Agafya and her brother were born in 1943 which completed the Lykov family. They were self-sufficient, surviving from crops such as potatoes and mushrooms, until a storm in 1961. Their crops were destroyed, with the Lykov family resorting to eating tree bark and shoes to see them through this bleak period. It was in this time however, that their mother died through starvation.
When her family was discovered in 1978, they went on to receive national coverage and an invitation to travel Russia for a month. Agafya took this opportunity and although she has experienced life outside of the wilderness, she does not wish to return to the ‘real world.’
Director of the film crew Rebecca after discovering Agafya’s story, said: “For two years I couldn’t stop thinking about Agafya surviving alone in the vast Siberian Taiga. Her unique situation seems to me to be at once a paradise and a nightmare of loneliness. The Forest In Me will explore the rhythm of Agafya’s reality, her imagination, dreams and thoughts, and in parallel reflect on our contemporary lives.
“Our film is a meditation on the nature of individual human identity within this isolated dreamscape of freezing snow and forest.”
Rebecca utilised a successful crowdfunding campaign to kick-start the project, raising more than £14,000. She has since raised support from European Media Awards and from two production companies in the UK and Greece.
Date: 17 November 2015