Smithsonian tells story of reclusive Russian family that was unaware of WW II

Lindsay Jolivet
Daily Buzz
J.D. Irving Ltd. has designated the estimated 500 hectares of old-growth forest it owns around Ayers Lake as "unique."

In 1936, a Russian family retreated into the wilderness of Siberia, fleeing from religious persecution. They lived isolated for 40 years, surviving the bitter cold of winter in the barren taiga.

They knew nothing of humans stepping foot on the Moon, nor of satellites; they didn't even know WWII had happened.

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Their incredible story of suffering and perseverance is getting new attention this week after it was featured in the magazine Smithsonian. It's the story of Karp Lykov, his wife and the children they raised together in a tiny log cabin with one window.

A group of geologists discovered the family by accident in 1978, when they saw a garden cleared on the side of the mountain where no record of human habitation had ever been documented.

The story emerged that these people were part of a Russian Orthodox religious sect known as Old Believers that had been persecuted for centuries. Modern communities of Old Believers still exist, including a congregation in Alberta.

When the Soviets took power, Lykov's brother was shot and he fled with his family to avoid the same fate. The Lykov family lived on what they could grow with seeds and gather from the wild until a dire situation worsened and Karp Lykov's wife died of starvation in 1961, about 17 years before the geologists arrived.

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Today, Smithsonian reports, one surviving daughter, now in her 70s, still chooses to live alone in the only home she has ever known — the vast Siberian forest.