The Russian government claims to have found the oldest woman in the world at 128 years old — who says she hasn’t lived a single happy day in her life.
If true, the claims would mean Koku Istambulova was already 27 when the last Tsar Nicholas II abdicated.
She would also have been 55 when World War II ended and 102 when the Soviet Union collapsed a generation ago.
But the claims are dubious, as she would also have smashed the global record for the oldest person who ever lived by some six years.
The claim is made by the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation and is based on her internal passport, which shows her date of birth as June 1, 1889.
Istambulova and her family were deported after World War II along with the entire Chechen nation to Kazakhstan and Siberia by Stalin who accused them of Nazi collaboration.
Asked how she lived so long, Istambulova, from a village in Chechnya, who claims she will be 129 next month, told an interviewer: “It was God’s will — I did nothing to make it happen. I see people going in for sports, eating something special, keeping themselves fit, but I have no idea how I lived until now.”
And she added: “I have not had a single happy day in my life. I have always worked hard, digging in the garden.
“I am tired.
“Long life is not at all God’s gift for me – but a punishment.”
Relatives say five years ago she lost her only surviving daughter Tamara who lived until she was 104.
She doesn’t speak about her family tragedy but she lost several children, including a son aged 6.
She is articulate and able to feed herself and walk, but her eyesight is failing.
Istambulova said: “I survived through the (Russian) Civil War (after the Bolshevik revolution), the Second World War, the deportation of our nation in 1944 and through two Chechen wars.
“And now I am sure that my life was not a happy one.”
“I remember tanks with Germans passing our house. It was scary. But I tried not to show this, we were hiding in the house.”
Officials say all her documents were lost during the Second Chechen War from 1999 to 2009.
The pension fund, a state body, claims there are 37 people over 110 years of age in Russia.
But all these claims, including Istambulova’s, are impossible to verify because of the lack of reliable birth or early childhood written records.
Since the death of 117-year-old Nabi Tajima in Japan last month, the oldest documented woman in the world is regarded as Chiyo Miyako, born on May 2, 1901, also from Japan.
The oldest documented human lifespan is Jeanne Calment, from France, who lived 122 years, 164 days, dying in 1997.
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