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The Incredible Story Of The Child Who Survived Alone In The Siberian Wilderness

Four-year-old Karina Chikitova got lost one day in the dangerous wilderness of Siberia, with only her dog as company. The two would experience one of the most amazing survival stories in recent memory.

One otherwise normal day, in August 2014, a four-year-old girl left her house in pursuit of her father as he was taking a trip into the remote wilds near Olom Village, in the Sakha Republic, Russia. The girl was called Karina Chikitova, and her father had no idea she was following him.

It was probably not unusual that her father would leave for a few hours to wander around the vicinity of their village, but Karina wasn't prepared this time around to join him. Soon enough, she was lost. The Siberian wilderness is vast and treacherous, and a four-year-old looking for her father wouldn't have been able to keep up. 

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Her dog, Naida, had fortunately followed Karina just as the girl followed her father, and the two suddenly found themselves walking with no one in sight, drifting farther away from their home as the hours went by.

@siberian_times

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The first night

Night creeped up on them. Karina's father had returned home hours ago, and it didn't take long after that for the whole household to realize what had happened. Karina was nowhere to be seen. Her grandmother was supposed to have been looking after the child, but she initially thought that her father had taken her. Unconcerned, she went on about her business—expecting to see her cheerful granddaughter come evening. When that didn't happen, it dawned upon the family the seriousness of the situation: Karina was out there, alone (except for Naida), unprepared, with nothing to eat or drink or to shelter herself—a tiny baby in a wild land filled with bears and wolves.

Siberia can be an extremely dangerous place even for otherwise fit adults. As if the carnivorous wildlife weren't enough, the sheer brutality of Siberia's climate should scare any sane person. Chilling temperatures and ruthless weather can prove fatal for unsuspecting wanderers, and these conditions are particularly unsafe for small children—for obvious reasons. Yet Karina endured; for hours; for days. She survived by eating small berries and drinking water from nearby rivers, and she faced the freezing nighttime temperatures by cozying up in a bed of grass. Naida did her best too, as the two slept close together to keep each other warm.

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Over a week later

A whole week had gone by and there was no rescue in sight. Back in the village, teams had assembled and looked for days upon days without any sign of the girl. The family was devastated, but Karina's mother never lost hope—not even for a second. "I always believed that she would be found," she'd said after the ordeal. "Many stopped believing that she was alive, but as a mother I felt that she soon would be found."

After nine days struggling to survive, scared and alone, Karina could only be grateful about one thing: her loyal friend was by her side. Naida gave her strength, and actively helped the four-year-old to stay alive for that long. But then something happened. Naida suddenly walked away and headed back into town, leaving Karina completely alone and more afraid than ever. Naida found her way after a while and finally reached Olom, where she alerted rescuers to the fact that Karina was still alive. By reaching the village, Naida effectively raised the alarm and rescue efforts were renewed, giving hope to the family.

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Sakha Republic Rescue Service/The Siberian TimesNaida did what she could to lead the rescue team back to where Karina was, but was unable to find the precise spot again. Still, the heroic dog indicated a general area to focus the search. Three days later, a rescuer named Artyom Borisov spotted something curled up in an overgrown grassy field. Karina was lying there, hiding from danger and doing her best to keep herself warm. She was safe.

A happy ending

"To search for a tiny girl in the area overgrown with impassable bushes, high grass and tussocks was literally like looking for a needle in a haystack," said Karina's mother a year after the ordeal. She thoroughly thanked everyone who participated in the rescue—Borisov in particular. The family also knows that they owe a great deal to Naida, who was not only crucial to protect the four-year-old from the cold, but to drive away predators as well.

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In the end, all was well. A terrifying situation that could have ended in tragedy ultimately had a happy ending after all. Karina was strong, and she fortunately knew the area well enough to understand what she could eat and what she couldn't. She succeeded where many adults would probably fail, and she did it with the incredible resilience of a true survivor. 

@siberian_timesWhen Karina finally reunited with Naida, the girl had one question for her friend. Not understanding what had happened when she was all alone, she could only ask 'why did you leave me?' In time, Karina will surely appreciate the answer.

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(Cover photo: @siberian_times)

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When The U.S. Tried To Kill All The Bisons To Exterminate Native Americans

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