Authorities in the former Soviet republic of Georgia claim a woman from a remote mountain village turned 130 on Thursday, making her the oldest person on Earth.
Antisa Khvichava from western Georgia was born on July 8, 1880, said Georgiy Meurnishvili, spokesman for the civil registry at the Justice Ministry.
The woman, who lives with her 40-year-old grandson in an idyllic vine-covered country house in the mountains, retired from her job as a tea and corn picker in 1965, when she was 85, records say.
"I've always been healthy, and I've worked all my life — at home and at the farm," said Khvichava, in a bright dress and headscarf, her withered lips rejuvenated by shiny red lipstick. Sitting in the chair and holding her cane, Khvichava spoke quietly through an interpreter since she never went to school to learn Georgian and speaks only the local language, Mingrelian.
Her age couldn't immediately be independently verified. Her birth certificate was lost — one of the great number to have disappeared in the past century amid revolutions and a civil war which followed the collapse of the Russian Empire.
But Meurnishvili showed two Soviet-era documents that he says attest to her age. Scores of officials, neighbors, friends, and descendants backed up her claim as the world's top senior.
The Gerontology Research Group currently recognizes 114-year-old Eugenie Blanchard of Saint Barthelemy, France, as the world's oldest person. The organization is yet to examine Khvichava's claim.
Khvichava has a son, 10 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and six great, great grandchildren.
Khvichava's 70-year-old son Mikhail apparently was born when his mother was 60. She said she also had two children from a previous marriage, but says they died of hunger during World War II.
Although Khvichava has difficulty walking and has stayed largely in bed during the past seven years, she makes a point of hobbling unaided to the outhouse on the other side of the yard, loath to be a nuisance, Mikhail said.
Though her body has all but quit on her — her fingers cramped and deformed by age mean she can no longer maintain her love of knitting — relatives say her mind remains sharp.
"Grandma has a very clear mind and she hasn't lost an ability to think rationally," said Khvichava's granddaughter Shorena, who lives in a nearby village.
To mark the centenarian's birthday, a string ensemble played folk music out on the lawn, while grandchildren offered traditional Mingrelian dishes like corn porridge and spiced chicken with herbs to all guests as the party.