At age 4, she navigated miles of Siberian wilderness on her own.
Siberia is a bleak place. It doesn't have much to brag about but it does have the coldest town on Earth. Average temperatures in Siberia get as low as -45°F in January and sits around 32°F in July. You can’t grow anything because the ground is always frozen. Basically, living is Siberia is like living north of The Wall.
Impressing people who live in a place like this is no easy feat. But at four years old, Saglana Salchak did just that.
Siberia is a remote place to begin with. It’s population density is 8 people per square mile. The United States has 92 people per square mile. If you were to tell a Siberian that your American home is remote, it would be like telling a NASCAR driver that you were driving fast on the highway. Different yardsticks. But even by Siberian standards, Saglana’s home is remote - 5 miles from the nearest neighbor and 12 miles from the nearest village.
Saglana lives in the Siberian wilderness with her grandmother and blind grandfather. She has no siblings and her parents work in a city that's hundreds of miles away. So when her grandma has a heart attack, the only person who's able to go for help is 4-year old Saglana.
At 6am, the grandfather tells Saglana to set out for the neighbors to get help. Since he’s blind, he doesn’t realize that it’s still pitch black outside and -11F. Obedient Saglana says nothing and sets out with only a box of matches to light her way.
Her destination is 5 miles away through the Siberian wilderness. Packs of wolves roam the area, often killing livestock along the exact route Saglana has to take. There is no road or even a path to follow. Saglana must follow the frozen river, trudging through the snow.
Four-year old humans are not exceptionally tall and the snow that's waist-deep for adults is chest-deep for Saglana. This small child is walking through a wolf-infested wilderness in sub-zero temperatures, through chest-deep snow, and in total darkness. Most humans her age are just trying to learn the alphabet.
After three grueling hours, Saglana makes it to her neighbor’s house. Her neighbors hurry to Saglana’s to find her grandmother had died from a heart attack. Locals said that Saglana was lucky to have made it herself.
Despite everything, Saglana says that she was never scared during her trek. She just “walked, walked and got there.” She did admit that she “really wanted to eat”. Priorities.
Living in a place where daily life involves the possibility of freezing to death and wolf attacks makes hard people. Saglana's story is impressive to us, but maybe it's as common as getting on the school bus in Siberia. Not so. When Saglana’s story broke, even the local elders were amazed at what she had done. A child that impresses people as hardened as Siberians probably has a thing or two to teach the rest of us.
Saglana’s description of what she did is so simple - "I just walked, walked and got there." Simple doesn't mean it's not valuable and this perspective can be applied to achieving whatever goals are important to you. Running a marathon? Run, run, and you will get there. Starting a business? Work, work, and you will get there. Writing a book? Write, write, and you will get there.
Hard work and persistence will take you far. We like to over complicate things and sometimes it takes a four-year old to remind us what’s actually important to focus on. Next time you doubt yourself and feel your commitment falter, remember Saglana. Remember to just go, keep going, and you will get there.