She is being hailed as the bravest girl in Siberia, but Saglana Salchak’s feat of walking five miles on a frozen river through a wolf-plagued forest to seek help for her grandma could has landed her mother in serious trouble.
Last month, the four-year-old – who lived with her grandparents in the rugged and remote farming community of Tuva republic in Russia – woke early to find her 60-year-old grandmother motionless.
To help her blind grandfather, Salchak – armed with just a box of matches – set out on the perilous journey as temperatures dropped to 29 below, in an area teeming with wolves, according to the Siberian Times.
Three hours and five arduous miles later, she was spotted by neighbors – whose house she almost missed amid the undergrowth. Salchak was then taken to hospital for a check-up, before it was confirmed that her grandmother died of a heart attack.
“I just walked, walked and got there,” she later told a local newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, adding that her biggest contentions were not being frightened, but rather desperately cold and hungry.
However, the child’s dangerous journey has opened up some legal uncertainties. The Tuva Investigative Committee is investigating the conduct of social policy officials in the area, questioning why there was no adequate phone or emergency communications in the district.
On Sunday, the committee also opened a criminal case against the young girl’s mother, Eleonora Salchak, for leaving a minor in danger. If charged, she could face a year behind bars.
“She knew that the elderly lacked the ability to take measures to guarantee the child’s safety,” the committee said in a statement.
The young girl was primarily cared for by her grandparents, as her mother and stepfather tended to their own herd of horses some distance away. She reportedly now lives in a local social center.