• Saglana Salchak, 4, walked for six hours in -33C to try to help her sick grandmother. (Yury Darbaa/Siberian Times)Source: Yury Darbaa/Siberian Times
Saglana Salchak trekked for eight kilometres through the Siberian snow to try to save her grandmother, but now her mother is facing criminal proceedings.
Alyssa Braithwaite

15 Mar 2017 - 11:52 AM  UPDATED 15 Mar 2017 - 2:28 PM

A four-year-old girl who walked for hours through the Siberian snow to try to save her sick grandmother has been hailed a hero in Russia's Tuva republic.  

Saglana Salchak was living with her grandparents on their remote farm near the Mongolian border - more than 19 kilometres away from the nearest village and eight kilometres from the next door neighbour - when she woke one morning last month to discover that her 60-year-old grandmother was not moving, the Guardian reports.

With no phone or internet connection at the house, the little girl spoke to her blind grandfather and made the decision to walk to their nearest neighbours to get help, according to local news outlets.

Saglana took a box of matches in case she needed to light a fire, and set off in the darkness of the early morning, braving temperatures that dip as low as -34C  and packs of wolves that are known to roam the area.

"Tuva has simply filled up with wolves," Semyon Rubstov, head of the regional search and rescue group, told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

"They eat the livestock - the herders moan about them. She could have easily stumbled on a pack in the darkness." 

At the end of the eight kilometre trek along a riverbank, where the snow was often chest-high, she almost missed the neighbours' house, but luckily she was spotted by one of the family, who called medics from the village.

After checking on Saglana, they trekked back to her grandparents' house, where they discovered her grandmother had died of a heart attack.

The little girl said she had not been scared by the solo journey, but admitted she had been cold and "really wanted to eat". 

"I just walked, walked and got there," Saglana told Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Saglana did catch a cold from the prolonged exposure, but recovered quickly at the local hospital and has just celebrated her fifth birthday. 

Her act of bravery has impressed locals, with Tuva Online writing: “You can’t [easily] impress residents of the remote Tere-Kholsky district with extreme stories about taiga life. Nonetheless, the incident several days ago amazed even the old-timers in Kungurtug, the district centre.”

But the Tuva investigative committee has initiated criminal proceedings against the girl's mother, Eleonora Salchak, who looks after a heard of horses in another part of the region, for leaving a minor in danger.

“She knew that the elderly [grandparents] lacked the ability to take measures to guarantee the child’s safety,” it said in a press release.

If charged, the mother could face up to a year in prison. 

But around the world, people have been touched by Saglana's story.

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