At 124 years old Zabina Khakimova has been declared the world’s oldest person – and she still does the housework.
Zabina puts her longevity down to hard work, simple food and clean mountain air. Perhaps it also helps that she prays five times a day.
Whatever the secret, Zabani Khakimova was yesterday declared to be the world’s oldest living person at 124.
According to authorities in her native Chechnya, she remains in good health and continues to do housework and even a little babysitting for her huge extended family.
Mrs Khakimova, who lives in the Achkoi-Martan district of the mountainous and war-ravaged Russian republic, has 24 grandchildren, 38 greatgrandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren.
The claim the Chechens are making for her age would make her nine years older than the oldest person cited by the Guinness Book of Records, Kamato Kongo, from Japan, who is 115. She would even exceed the age reached by Jeanne Calment, the oldest ever person to be authenticated by the book’s researchers, who died in France in 1997 aged 122.
Assuming the claim is genuine, Mrs Khakimova has witnessed a century and a quarter of war, famine and revolution. She has lived under three Tsars and was 38 by the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Since then she has seen her country convulsed by more than 70 years of Communism followed by a decade of civil war. She endured the mass deportation of her people to Kazakhstan in Central Asia in 1942 after the Chechens were accused by Stalin of collaboration with invading Nazi troops.
Thousands had died of hunger and disease before they were allowed to return after Stalin’s death, by which time Mrs Khakimova had lost her husband and eight of her ten children.
More recently she has witnessed the appalling devastation that followed Chechnya’s declaration of independence in 1992 and the Russian invasion that followed. Thousands of people died in the ensuing fighting.
Her home town witnessed the terrors of war with separatist troops planting mines and shooting at Russian soldiers, who in turn are accused of mistreating civilians as they hunted down guerikas.! Doctors who have examined Mrs Khakimova say she is in good health considering her age. Her only complaint has been a problem with her hearing over the pastcouple of years.
Her memory is not what it once was, course, and while insisting that she was indeed born in 1879, the Chechens have failed to pin down an actual date of birth.
Her youngest son, Mokhdan, is still alive and has ten children of his own. Another son, Akhdan, died just two years ago but is survived by his 14 children.
Mrs Khakimova’s life is said to have revolved around raising her children and growing vegetables for food.
These days, as well as working around the house, she looks after her great! grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, and never misses her prayer sessions.
The claim for her age was made by the Chechen deputy health minister Sultan Alimkhadzhiyev to a Russian news agency.
It would put her way ahead of Kamati Kongo, who”was born on September 1 1887, on Tokunoshima Island, Japan and who took the title aged 114 year and 183 days on the death of American Maude Farris-Luse in March 2002.
Mrs Farris-Luse had credited intake of boiled dandelion greens a fried fish for her longevity.
Last night a spokesman for the Guinness Book of Records said the Chech claim had not yet reached them.
“But if they can send us a birth certificate, medical records or witness sta ments backing up the claim we will investigate it,’ she added.
If official doubts were to be cast Mrs Khakimova’s age, it would not the first time in recent years that Russian longevity proclamations have be discredited.
In January 2001 the southern Russin republic of Dagestan reported that tl world’s oldest man, 134-year-old Gayirkhan Iriskhanov, lived in a local village. Then a Russian census December last year found that a Siberian woman, Pelageya Zakurdayeva, was born on June 6, 1886, making her the longest-living person in the world at 111.