25 September 2013

Agafia: Hermit in the Taifa (Siberia)

Occasionally one will find (or be sent) videos of hermits who have lived in very much more difficult situations than us urban hermits --- like this one. Personally, I love the way Agafia Lykov's day begins with prayer and is punctuated with song (prayer) throughout. She is a few year older than I am but I recognize the rhythm of her life in the Taifa even in my own more comfortable one. Her feet are roughly shod and then wrapped in cloth; her hands are dirty and scared from work and struggle and her face is wrinkled from weather and time, but I especially love her eyes and smile which are both full of mirth and joy. One poignant piece of her story was the way in which part of her family died within weeks of each other. Geologists came to visit at one point and three of the children came down with an infection and died. Her mother's story is even more moving (you can watch the video for that)!

Today Agafia is sure that if she went to live in the nearest city (days away and really only accessible by canoe except in Winter and by helicopter when the weather is good), she would die. Her story reminds me of the one I heard while on retreat last month, the story on which the book,  Island of the Blue Dolphin is based. After 18 years stranded and abandoned on an island off the coast of Santa Barbara an Indian woman was brought to the Old Mission. She died within two months of causes similar to those that took Agafia's siblings.

Some contemporary hermits (meaning here more than diocesan hermits) strike me as eccentric or even a little crazy. Agafia does not. She has been sheltered and her and her life is very demanding, but she is joyful, brave, generous, and above all faithful to God. At one point, laughing a little at herself and also perhaps a little pleased, she shows off and pins on a medal which she explains was given to her for kindness and faith. For me she epitomizes the kind of personal transparency solitude produces and treats as a goal. She lives the silence of solitude and will probably die one day doing so.

This is part 1 of 4. The other parts should come up as you finish each one but if not check out You Tube for Surviving in the Siberian Wildreness for 70 years.