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    Agafia, the Russian babuska who resists in Siberia

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    What life is it, the life of one who runs away? Here, this question certainly should have answered 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 ‘his’ version of religion, that of the ‘ancient believers’, taking his whole family with him. A sect, it has been said and 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, nearly three hours by helicopter from the first city worthy of the name, Abakan. A geological era has passed since the Likovs were found in 1978. 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’re Italian, I haven’t seen one for at least 30 years.” Agafia speaks softly, a Russian very similar to a dirge, missing teeth, unmade and black hands (she does not use soap, only water), the handkerchief tied on her head as tradition dictates. There is no way of knowing more about this ancient Italian, who he was, where he came from. His mind is already elsewhere. Agafia knows how to get what she wants and only responds to what she likes. The rest is passed over. She is very religious and it would not be strange if one day they made her a saint: she would be a modern saint for a contemporary Russia. Papà Karp fled to avoid the Stalinist persecution of the 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, it is even frightening to think that there may be others”, he declares from the top of his zeal. But she seasons each sentence with a gentle smile, which lights up her face and clear eyes. His yardstick is that, everything goes 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 his own 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 is tough. Covid has taken hold – even in the middle of nowhere in Chakassia the virus has arrived – because of a reckless blogger, who evaded the rules in order to interview her. But he beat him without even seeking treatment. Always for religious reasons.

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    “I hope I can live to be 80. After that I want to go to heaven – that’s my next stop,” she says when you ask her if there’s anything she wants. In the meantime, however, it has equipped itself for a more comfortable stay. Unknowingly entering the orbit of the charitable activities of the foundation of Oleg Deripaska, the billionaire aluminum magnate, at one point she asked where this sudden aid came from. When they explained it to him, he saw fit to take a pen and paper and ask Deripaska “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 hands grandmother-Siberia 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 its horizon. If you show her a picture of Putin she giggles and says “what’s on the calendars!”. Yes of course, there too. But mostly he’s the president. You know he’s your 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 his world. A world that no longer exists and that will go away with Agafia.

    Source From: Ansa

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