Siberia is not for the unprepared. Deserted, full of dangerous animals and extremely cold, it’s the last place in the world a 4-year-old a parent would want to lose track of their child. But want little Karina Chikitova and her dog followed her dad into the dangerous wilds of Siberia, the worst was about to happen.
25. A fearless little girl
Four-year-old Karina Chikitova lived in a remote village in Siberia in a far east region named The Sakha Republic. She shared a simple home with her father, mother, grandmother, and dog, Naida.
24. Always ready to play
Like most kids her age, Karina was full of curiosity. It pushed to explore without thinking of consequences. Which is why, in July 2014, she followed her father, Rodion, on an expedition into a part of the Siberian wilderness also known as the taiga.
23. Not a place for kids
This decision was problematic first of all because the taiga is an animal kingdom. It is filled with bears, tigers, and wolves with really sharp teeth and an appetite for people.
22. No one knew
The second problem with Karina’s adventure outside was that she had not told her grandmother who was in charge of taking care of her at the moment.
21. Absolutely no one
She hadn’t even told her father that she would be following him. So literally no one knew that this four years old girl was adventuring into the most dangerous place on earth.
20. Not alone
At least, this courageous little girl was not alone. Karina left with Naida, the family dog. That was all the companionship she needed, but it was little comfort to her mother, Talina, when she realized that both her daughter and her dog were missing.
19. The longest wait
At first, Talina figured her little girl had gone to Rodion’s native village with him. Siberia doesn’t have the best cell phone service, so she could not just call him to make sure it was the case. She had to wait to hear from him.
18. Almost all alone
In the meantime, Karina followed her father until she lost track of him. He disappeared from view leaving her and Naida stranded in Siberia. With the bears, And the wolves…
17. News for the father
It took four days before her mother finally learned that, her daughter was in fact not with her husband in the village. No stranger to Siberia, she understood this to be a very bad thing, so she alerted authorities.
16. Rescue mission
They deployed a 100-person rescue team to head out into the wilds in hopes of finding little Karina. The team carried rifles to fend off bears which is to say how numerous and dangerous they were.
15. Not losing hope
Helicopters sliced the sky and rescue workers on foot combed through the trees and tall grass, but their search proved fruitless. Karina was nowhere to be seen. Only nine days after she went missing did authorities find a clue.
14. A living clue
This clue was no stranger to the family. It even walked to the authorities. It was Naida, the dog, who had come back home. But Karina was not with her! What should’ve been a hopeful moment only seemed to confirm Talina’s worst thoughts.
The thought of Karina being with the dog gave the family hope that it could warm the little girl and give her a chance to survive. So when her dog came back, they thought “that’s it”.
13. Dog on a mission
But Naida hadn’t just wandered absentmindedly home. She seemed eager to show the desperate family and the rescue crew something important. The dog headed the group of rescuers and led them into the wilderness. The dog led the crew to an area in the wild, but Karina was nowhere to be seen. Naida, it seemed, couldn’t find the exact place where it had left the little girl or maybe Karina had kept moving. Authorities wondered if they were anywhere near her at all.
12. Another clue
Three days later, 12 days after Karina first went missing, rescue workers spotted a child-sized footprint on a river bed beside the print of a dog’s paw. The footprint revealed Karina was barefoot which was crucial information for the investigators.
11. Change of plans
The rescue workers figures that Karina likely was most likely notin the woods. The condition of the grounds would have been way too painful for her bare little feet. This narrowed down their search considerably. The following morning, they executed a new search plan.
10. More developments
The new tactic proved useful, as only 20 meters from where they started searching, a rescue worker noticed a peculiar lump tucked away in a patch of tall grass. The whole crew rushed over.
9. Emotional moment
They found her nestled in the grass. She was starving, thirsty, exhausted, and covered in mosquito bites, but still alive. They brought her tea before driving her to the nearest hospital.
8. The state of the little girl
Karina had to spend a few days in the hospital, doctors said there would be no lasting damage. A psychologist also examined her mental state and found, shockingly, that her mind was in a good place.
So how did a four-year-old girl survive in the Siberian wilderness? She told her family as well as reporters that she ate wild berries and drank river water.
7. A caring dog
And of course, there was Naida, her dog, who gave her warmth at night and companionship during the day. The two reunited for the first time at home when Karina came back from the hospital. The meeting did not go as expected.
When Karina first saw her dog, she looked her in the eyes and chided, “why did you leave me?” During those three days of solitude, Karina probably thought her dog had abandoned her. But eventually, she came to understand what the dog did for her.
“It was Naida who rescued me,” Karina said sometime later. “I was really, really scared. But when we were going to sleep I hugged her, and together we were warm.”
4. Never forget
Karina’s story gripped everyone watching, and locals even erected a statue of the girl and her pooch to celebrate their strength and will to survive. Quite an example of courage.
3. New life
Karina recovered fully. By 2018, she attended a ballet boarding school 350 miles away from the village where she used to live with her parent, her grandmother and her dog. Her teachers believed she had the talent to take part in Russia’s competitive ballet scene.
2. Life in ballet school
Over there, at first, Karina was very reserved. “She has changed so much and became a lot more open, sociable, friendly and independent. She made many friends who love her lots,” said a boarding school leader.
1. Friends for ever
But even with her new life as a competitive ballet dancer, Karina will never forget the friend that made it all possible: Naida, her loyal and loving dog.