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The oldest man in the world
Hryhoriy Nestor, 116, hopes to get into the Guinness Book of Records and to celebrate it by getting married.
Hryhoriy Nestor who is over 116 years old, lives in the village of Stary Yarychiv which is situated about twenty kilometers from Lviv in Western Ukraine.
It is an old village. The first written mention of it dates from 1370, but there is nothing in the village now that would reveal its venerable age. The surrounding countryside is beautifully scenic, the houses are neat, gardens are well taken care of. One can describe it as a typical Ukrainian village of that area with no landmarks to boast of.
Hryhoriy Nestor’s birth certificate says that he was born on March 15 1891. It makes him the oldest man in Ukraine and in the world too.
Ihor Podchebiy, who represents the Book of Ukraine’s Records, says that it was the year when several distinguished persons of Ukraine were born, among them the prominent Ukrainian poet Pavlo Tychyna.
The length of one’s life depends on many things. Genetics, environment, social conditions, illnesses, way of life, plus a lot else, contribute to how long one will live. Some people believe that it is God that determines how long each of us will live; others claim it’s just a matter of chance or luck. Still others believe in reincarnation and thus in eternal life.
According to a special committee that keeps track of the longest living persons on earth, as of June 2007, there were 84 persons on the globe who were 110 years old — 75 women and only 9 men. Thus Nestor finds himself in a very small centenarian male company.
Hryhoriy Nestor was born in the village of Monastyr which at that time belonged to Poland. Old timers in Western Ukraine call the times of the late nineteenth-early twentieth century “za tsirya”, that is “of Caesar,” referring though not to the ancient Roman Julius Caesar but to the emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and Hungary. They claim that “those were golden times.”
Nestor’s recollections of his childhood are also sunny, “the best in my life — carefree, swimming in the river, hanging out with friends.”
He was only seven when his family became ill with typhus. He survived but the illness prevented him from becoming a priest as was a family tradition through several generations.
In 1940, his family moved to the Land of Lvivshchyna in Ukraine. He worked as a shepherd spending most of his time outdoors. He never learnt to write but he could read a little. At his age, he is a man of cheerful and benevolent character, he wishes everyone well, avoids any arguments, and takes everything with a pinch of salt, even his fame of the oldest man on earth.
His diet has always been very simple — milk, cheese, potatoes. In the lean years or during famines he ate anything that he could get — oats, red beet peelings, even grass. He used to drink alcohol, but always moderately. Most of his life he walked around barefoot, took swims in the river. He never married. It is to his bachelor status that he attributes his longevity, “If I’d been married, my wife would’ve chased me into grave long ago.”
And he spent a lot of time in prayer. He always said a prayer in the morning when he got up and in the evening before he went to bed. He still does it. He observed Christian feasts, fasted when it was required by the religious calendar. He always worked hard — very typical of his generation.
There is a person who looks after him — Oksana Savchuk, his grandniece, who helps cook simple meals for him. Potatoes, beans or peas are his staple diet.
If not for all the revolutions and wars, there could have been many people of a hundred or more years of age living in Ukraine. It is Japan now that holds the lead in the number of long-living persons. There are more than 28,000 people in Japan who are over one hundred years old! Tomoji Tanabe from the town of Miyakonozio on Kyushu Island is the oldest — he is 111 years old.
The age of Hrihoriy Nestor has been entered into the Book of Ukraine’s Records but the Guinness Book of World Records continues to ignore him. Neither does it include the Ukrainian Leonid Stadnyuk who is 2.53 meters tall and at such height is the tallest man on earth, taller by 17 centimeters than a Chinese who claims the title of the tallest man on earth.
By Natalya KOSMOLINSKA
Photos by the author
Hryhoriy Nestor who is 116 years old,
Sharing reminiscences and showing
Hryhoriy Nestor, a good-natured,