According to the Russian government, a Chechen woman named Koku Istambulova is 128 years old, which would make her not just the oldest person on earth (the current title holder being Chiyo Miyako, at 117 years old), but older than anyone on record in recent history. Her age is impossible to verify because her documents were lost in the Second Chechen War, but her internal passport reports her birth date as June 1, 1889. And to hear her tell it, she’s hated just about every minute since.
“I have not had a single happy day in my life. I have always worked hard, digging in the garden. I am tired,” Istambulova told the Daily Mail. When asked about her secrets for longevity, she said, “It was God’s will. I did nothing to make it happen.... Long life is not at all God’s gift for me -- but a punishment.”
Nineteenth-century Russia was, obviously, a pretty rough place to grow up, and Istambulova has lived through some of the worst incidents of the 20th century. She survived World War I, the Russian Revolution, World War II, and Joseph Stalin’s deportation of the entire Chechen nation to Kazakhstan and Siberia (“we felt how the Kazakhs hated us,” she said). She remembers being beaten by her grandmother for not dressing modestly enough as a child, and constantly digging holes and planting watermelons. Her children have all died, including a daughter who lived until she was 104.
There’s no lesson here, because, well, that’s life. “Looking back at my unhappy life, I wish I had died when I was young,” she told the Mail. “When I was working, my days were running one by one. And now I am not living, I am just dragging through.”
Her birthday is in just a couple weeks!