Georgian matriarch celebrates 130th birthday

Fri Jul 9, 2010 5:47am EDT
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SACHINO, Georgia (Reuters Life!) - Antisa Khvichava spends most of her time in bed these days, but she rose on Thursday to greet guests for a birthday party -- her 130th, according to relatives and official documents.

"I feel a bit weak, but I don't want to stay in bed," Khvichava said, her eyes shining as she spoke to visitors to her modest stone house in a remote Georgian mountain village.

Neighbors and local officials gathered at the well-kept home where she lives with her son Mikheil and several grandchildren.

"I wish all the best to my Mom. My mother will be my mother, even if she is 300 years old," said Mikheil.

Not quite yet. But numerous documents, including her Soviet-era passport, pension book and notes in archives, say that she was born on July 8, 1880.

A Japanese woman who was the world's oldest person died a week before her 115th birthday in May, Guinesss World Records said. That made Eugenie Blanchard, born on the Caribbean island in Guadeloupe on February 16, 1896, the world's oldest person, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which maintains a registry of the oldest people.

Khvichava's husband died in 1949 and she outlived an older son, but she has 10 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren -- and great great grandchildren whose exact number confuses even members of the family.

Khvichava, whose schooling ended after fourth grade, spent her life growing tea, corn and vegetables and looking after cattle.

"I always worked, cultivated my plot. My husband died and I tried to bring up my children as well as I could," she said.

Then, on the fifth try, she blew out the candles on her big white birthday cake -- three candles in the shape of the numerals '130'.

(Reporting by Nino Ivanishvili; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Steve Gutterman)