A 3-year-old girl in Russia’s Sakha Republic is making international headlines after she was successfully recovered by rescue personnel after an astonishing 11-day stay in a remote Siberian taiga. According to The Siberian Times, Karina Chikitova was first reported lost on July 29 after she was believed to have wandered away from her village into a nearby forest with the family dog. Rescuers are now crediting the pet for keeping the young girl warm and eventually leading search parties back to her location.
“We began searches, thinking that if she had lost her shoes she would try and stay away from the deep forest, because there is a lot of sharp sticks there. In the morning, almost right after we began searches—we only made 20 meters—we saw Karina sitting in the grass. We rushed to her, got her a little tea and grabbed her to run back to the car and doctors,” said Afanasiy Nikolayev, who spoke on behalf of the Sakha Republic Rescue Service.
Officials say that the girl is safe and healthy, despite her long stay in the wilderness. Rescuers were worried that the area’s cold conditions would leave Chikitova with permanent brain damage, but that appears to not be the case. When questioned on how she survived in the forest alone, the 3-year-old answered that she gathered berries and drank water from a nearby river. One of the first things Chikitova did was to make a bed in the tall grass, where she would huddle with her dog at night for warmth.
“It’s simply incredible that she was found safe with so much wildlife in the forest,” Nikolayev told the Komsomolskaya Pravda journal. “An adult would not survive—he would torment himself with awful thoughts.”
Indeed, rescuers say that the forest was known to be inhabited by wolves and bears. This was proven when one of the search teams confronted a bear while looking for Chikitova, and was able to leave unscathed. Some rescuers believe that the dog may have played a part in warding off any predators that would have taken an interest in the girl. Chikitova’s family got a slim ray of hope when the dog arrived in the village two days before she was found. Mobilizing over 100 people, including local hunters and special forces soldiers, the Sakha Republic Rescue Service was able to locate Chikitova just several miles from her remote village. The girl was found without shoes and covered in insect bites, but otherwise fine.
“She didn’t say a thing… she just cried quietly and reached out her arms,” said Artyom Borisov, the volunteer who first found her in the grass.