Reporting from Tuluksak, Alaska — As the temperature plunged to minus-40 degrees last month, Nastasia Wassilie waited.

The 61-year-old widow had run out of wood and fuel oil, and had no money to buy more. Nor was there much food in the house. But people here in rural Alaska try to take care of themselves. Her sister would come to help. Surely she would.

Nearly three days later, when neighbors learned of Wassilie’s plight, the Tribal Council put out a call on the VHF radio that is the lifeline for most of the far-flung Yupik Eskimo villages along this remote stretch of the Kuskokwim River.

People who had enough gas for their snowmobiles immediately set off across miles of tundra, hauling firewood back to Wassilie’s small house. A few offered helpings of dry fish, which most families keep in the larder for winter.

There was little more they could do. Nearly every one of Tuluksak’s roughly 500 residents is performing a perilous balancing act between food and fuel — the building blocks of survival in a frigid winter that still has months to go.

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I’ll have to give this some thought. She’s right about one thing for sure: nobody wants to say anything about it, ever if they can help it. (BTW, at the moment it’s +40 outside. I’ve never seen it below -35 all winter)


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