Siberia can be an unforgiving environment. Winters are bone-chilling cold and its dense forest is filed with bears, wolves, moose, and wild boars. It is no easy feat to survive a night in the Siberian taiga without food, water, and warm clothes, not to mention the threat of wild animals. Karina Chikitova and her dog Krychaan only had each other but somehow, they survived against all odds. The little girl is from the remote city of Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, in eastern Russia where severe and extreme climate conditions are the norm, ventured into the forest with just the clothes she was wearing.He had left for his native village looking of a new job. At first, the grandmother couldn’t confirm it with Karina’s father that the child was with him. There are no phone connections in the area. When she found out that the girl wasn’t with her father, she contacted the police.
Krychaan was her only protector during the terrifying ordeal. The dog kept Karina warm during the cold, freezing nights by cuddling her. He kept close to her, protecting her from wild bears and wolves. Karina made a bed for herself in the tall grasses. Unfortunately, helicopters and drones were unable to spot the child.
Krychaan and Karina survived on wild berries and water from the river.
The temperature in Yakutsk drops later in the day in those nights it had fallen into the negatives. The family and the hundreds of other volunteers who had been searching for the girl were very worried by then. They lost all their hope when they saw the dog back in the village. “So when her dog came back we thought ‘that’s it’ – even if she was alive – and chances were slim – now she would have definitely have lost all hopes. Our hearts truly and deeply sank,” explained Afanasiy Nikolayev, spokesperson for the Sakha Republic Rescue Service.
Rescuers followed the dog into the wilderness. They finally found her on the 11th day. She was four miles away from the home, hidden in a bed of tall grasses. “She was given food and drinks, and then with her mother she was first sent to the district hospital and then to Yakutsk,” said Ekaterina Andreeva, a psychologist with the rescue team. “We can say that the girl’s mind was not hurt. She is talking; she reacts normally to everything around her. She recalls what happened to her,” explained Andreeva.
When the rescuers found her, she was safe but weak and malnourished. She had been bitten several times by mosquitoes and had several wounds on her feet. “I carried Karina myself to the car, and she was light as a bird. She was hardly ten kilograms – but amazingly she was fully conscious,” Afanasiy Nikolayev said.
The little girl stayed in the hospital for five days. Her grandmother credits Karina’s survival to being used to living in the harsh conditions and is not scared of the forest.
The story of her bravery and her dog made headlines around the world. As a tribute to both of them, a statue was installed at the Yakutsk Airport under the name “Girl with the dog.”