Wonderful photos from Esquire magazine. These women are hundred years old and over. They were about 10 during the revolution and they were 30 when they suffered WWII. They lived during different governing epochs, under rule of the tsar, Stalin and Putin. So they have their own opinions of everything in the world.
Raisa Korneevna Komisarova, 100 yo, Moscow
Was born in Kashira.
She worked in Magadan as a head of a warehouse, train operator and Morse specialist.
“I had a family but they all died. From 11 family members only me is alive. Don’t know when I die. I am even afraid… who knows how long I am going to live! I am tired to live. In my three rooms I am all alone.. Even have nobody to speak with.
Once I killed a person. In 1925 I worked as a telegrapher and a Morse specialist. 6 years later I was employed to work in the metropolitan. And once I ran over a woman who commited suicide this way – she put her head on the rail and I didn’t manage to react in a right way. I applied the brakes but the train didn’t stop and kept going though slower. The woman was beheaded. She had a letter to her mother in her pocket “Dear mom, I lied to you, he was married for the second time. I can’t live this way… Say hello to daddy”. It was not my fault and I was not punished.
When I wake up I am not sure if it’s daytime or night.. here’s how my life goes…
Authorities send me letters asking to live long, they seem to respect me.
I was a party member for 50 years. But was not accepted to Komsomol, couldn’t answer one question. And I’ve never gone to churches.
I have always had money, never incurred debts. And I wouldn’t work for pennies. I’d choose the place where I am well paid.
I do not like greedy people. Yes, I’ve always had money but always helped others.
I watch TV only at 9 pm, newscast. I already do not think anything about the country, politics, anything. I am just waiting for death. But current president is a good person, I guess. And he has a modest wife. I’d never invite anyone but close people to celebrate my 100’s anniversary – doctors and a social worker Tanya.
My sisters died early because they had lunch only. As for me, I get up at night and eat or drink milk. If I want fish I eat fish.
What should I expect now? I was expecting a centenary, but should I expect the 200’s anniversary now? They say “Live long, we need you”, but why do they need me? Don’t know.”
Khanna Moiseevna Shklovskaya, 101 yo, Moscow
Was born in Ukraine.
Moved to Moscow from Leningrad when retired. Worked as a supervisor at a military plant.
” I am one year and 8 months… In this new century of mine.
In May, 9th everybody laughed of happiness but I was crying, I knew that my husband died. My sister was hiding a “killed in battle” notice from me, he had been killed in 1944. Since that time I have been living alone and growing our two children.
Children and old men take tragedies easier. When the war was over me and my daughter came back to Leningrad. The flat was open, littery, but daughter was so upset that a box with X-mas tree decorations was stolen. She was 5 years old then. I told her: “We have no father anymore and you are crying because of X-mas toys”, she replied: “I didn’t know my father anyway, and I feel more sad about the toys”.
I forget many things. Even when I start to tell about the brightest moments I forget a word I wanted to pronounce. But will you be better at my age?
When I was young I ate standing to keep a nice figure. And I always worked much.
There is one thing I regret about. One homeopath-professor was in love with me but I always rejected him. Once I earned 831 rubles for 5 days while engineers earned 90 rubles monthly. I fell ill after that and that professor came and gave me a medicine. I felt better the next day and went happily to work. When I went outside I saw the professor, when he saw me he took his hat off but I just rushed by and didn’t say him a word. It was the last time I saw him. He fell ill and died after that.
Sometimes I wake up and think what a fool I’ve always been. Did so many stupid things. And never became smarter. I have a bad character, I have never been able to swallow my pride.
I’ve never had “the best time in my life”. Only deeds and work, work and deeds…
In 1914 Germans came to Russia, they brought special gymnastic apparatuses. We performed in theaters and I did better than other girls and was presented so many boxes of chocolate!
I’ve always looked elegant. I had beautiful hair and I cut them short, went barefooted, had a man’s cap on my head, and wore old clothes. And I was told anyway that I looked suspicious.
Even when electric light bulbs appeared we continued to use kerosine lamps, we didn’t believe in electricity.
When radio appeared we all gathered at the post-office being promised to hear something special. It was amazing! The place was crowded. People could hear sounds from Moscow…
They said I was beautiful. And various women wanted me to belong to their “heaven born” sons.. I was so tired of them all. I’ve never believed in God.
I am afraid of nothing. I was born in the time of the tsar, underwent the Jewish mess, the war of 1914, hunger in Ukraine in 1922, WWII… What should I be afraid of after that?”
Goarik Artemyevna Balasanyan, 103 yo, Moscow.
Was born in Ashkhabad. Been in Moscow since 1913.
Teacher of music (piano), secretary-stenographer, translator from English.
“There is nothing funny about being that old. The most terrible thing is that my eyesight is worse and worse and can’t read Pushkin. I love him, his portrait hangs over my head. I also like Byron, Goethe, Dostoevsky. Even glasses and a loupe are not helpful anymore.
I have so much respect to the Englishmen. I remember one Englishman who came to Russia with Churchill, he was so strikingly handsome! Women just died down when saw him!
My life has been very long and very interesting. It consists of beautiful episodes. The best years are of the tsar epoch. I may be blamed for praising tsarism, but what intelligentsia was in Russia then! Poets and artists lived in the free country. And this is what they call “terrible tsarist time!” Hah!
I knew one girl who came from St. Petersburg to Moscow in winter just to send a wonderful bunch of flowers to her boyfriend in Kislovodsk by train!
I am an atheist. When I studied at the Moscow gymnasium, there were some Armenian girls there, just as I was, one priest used to come to us, and every time I saw him I burst into laughter! When he asked me to read a prayer I started laughing and other girls followed me. He got angry or laughed with us but nothing could help…
The most awful moment of the revolution was when I knew that tsar Nikolay’s family was killed. During the French revolution children were not killed, why did they do it in Russia?
I had a very beautiful sister. She died. I also had two brothers – musicians and composers. One of them knew Indira Gandhi. But nobody remained. Only me. It’s hard to talk or think about it. Besides, so little remains in my memory. Each new day takes my memories away.
Elegance is the most important for a woman. Not even beauty. But an ability to present yourself. I remember one German woman who lived with us in a boarding house. She wore a coat in winter, it was purple! And the fur was purple too!
Many young people leave for America today. But I do not like this country.
I dream to see Paris. French literature has impacted me so much. The French are so courteous! There are many things in the world which I haven’t seen. But it’s hard to say where I felt better. It’s always best where we don’t belong”.
Sarra Isaakovna Prinyakina. 100 yo, Moscow
Was born in Siberia. Finished only 4 school grades, a workers’ faculty. Worked in a library under a meat-packing plant.
“I have not done anything heroic. Never stopped the gap. Only worked hard day and night.
I had a working family, father was a saddler. Nine sisters, one brother. He died in the German war. We lived in a Baikal Lakeside village. I raked hay very well and was paid for that. Mom spinned, knitted, sewn and made tasty pies. We made brooms and bricks. And my twin-sisters made the best laces in the village and sold them in Barguzina. Once they were going home and were denuded of 20 rubles, it was a real tragedy!
I do not remember the revolution quite well. News didn’t reach Siberia fast. We could not understand what was happening. A White ataman came to our village, we thought it was a revolutioner and all went outside to welcome him. But were only whipped.
When I grew older I moved to sister in Ulan-Ude. There I got married with one guy and had a daughter. But he went to the front and never came back.
I worked as a horse. Lived in a dugout, took care of cattle, fleeced, carried potatoes for 25 km away.. We had no bread and we ate only potatoes, it made children sick. But that was nothing. One man with his son, evacuated from Leningrad, lived nearby, they ate leather and glue.
If you work hard you eat sweet. When my daughter graduated from the institute she bought me a fur tree and a shawl. I have everything I need being taken care of.
I’ve never been lonely – always had friends, children, neighbours, but I never got married again. One colonel courted me, he had been wounded in his head. But daughters told me “choose between us and a man with a hole in his head”. I chose them. I have never smoked or drunk and never had vacations.
I have a good memory. Remember telephone numbers by heart. Even cellphone ones. But I don’t remember offences. If someone shouts at me, I am silent.
We must be kind. Time takes beauty away, but it cannot take away kindness. Though I was not beautiful.
People often came to me for advice. And we all lived in friendship. When we left some place people cried, saw us off with tears.
During the war people were more friendly. If they were not they would not win.
On holidays we bought ordinary fish in tomato juice, it was luxury. And invited people, never were greedy.
It used to be hard, food was taken from under a counter, stealthily. Now if you have money, take anything you want. Just do not be lazy, work honestly. I like the present time. Though we had better times as well as worse.
We must be happy we’ve had no wars so much time. It’s all thanks to Brezhnev. Those who blame him today should be ashamed.
I try to look well, never come out without dental prosthesis. We, old people, are ugly by ourselves, so we should dress well…”
Sarah Medeleevna Sverdlova, 103 yo, moscow
Was born in Pochepa near Bryansk, moved to future husband to Kirgizia, later to Moscow. During the war she lived in evacuation in Kazan. Worked as an accountant.
” I am very very old. I remember 1917 – we did not study because of the revolution.
My father was considered to be wealthy. He had his own house, was a timber merchant. It had been quite well before the revolution, and then father was deprived of everything and called a capitalist. The man father had bought timber from escaped with his family abroad. But we, Jewish provincials, had not.
All people like to drink, poor or rich. There were many well-educated people in the new Soviet power, they all came to us to have a portion of vodka or two. Daddy invited them. So we had good relations with the Soviet power.
Mother was often told that she had a pretty daughter. People called me “very interesting”. I was proud and never agreed to live with some guy, no way!
When I graduated from the gymnasium, love affairs came into my life. There were many of them, but I didn’t love anyone. One was more persistent than others. His name was Misha. He was sent to Kirgizia and wrote me beautiful letters from there. He wrote: “Why should I refuse you? Don’t I love you with all my heart?”. I thought that I would never find a better love. So I decided to go to him, he sent me money for a trip. I came there as a lady. He even didn’t dare to kiss me. Only in my forehead. I was all dressed up, had beautiful fur-coat and shoes on. I lived two weeks in Kirgizia next to the man who had so much respect to me that didn’t even dare to touch me. We slept in different beds. And in two weeks we decided to get married.
But the war began and the Germans started to bomb Belarus. They killed my parents. In fact I don’t know for sure who killed them – Germans or Russians, people didn’t tell me because I was too nervous.
Life is not always easy, some turns are really tough. My second daughter Ada had only good and excellent marks trying to enter the institute, but the final Russian language exam was not a success, she failed. She was lying like dead, didn’t say a word. Father had to plead for her and she was finally admitted.
It’s important to marry a right person. A man of your choice should be honest, decent, not a thief or a knave. And he should love you. There are many wrong guys now, with no serious intentions.”
Alexandra Vasilyevna samburova, 102 yo, moscow
Finished three grades in the gymnasium. Studied at a workers’ faculty. Worked as an accounting clerk. Her father was an etcher, husband was an engineer.
“I was a friend of a daughter of Bourgeau – a Frenchman who had a factory producing tulle. In 1917 they escaped from Moscow. It was a hard mess.
We used to dance in the garden of Mandelshtam. And the dances were awesome, so elegant. I put on a polka-dotted dress with wings. We danced in a huge hall with a parquet floor. Girls had numbers on their chests, and if some boy liked some girl he could send her a note. I was always lucky to receive some.
After 1917 I also went to dance to the club, but it all became different. Asphalt floor, textile shoes.
I studied in a private gymnasium in Plyuschikha. My mother worked in a bakery. Once she brought a nice round loaf to a school dame and I was admitted. They needed nothing but white bread.
The gymnasium’s rules were strict. Once I didn’t make a curtsy in a right way and the teacher made me to make it again and then to stand for one hour at the wall. Does anyone know today how to make curtsy right?
We had many Chinese people before the revolution in Moscow. They wore boottrees not to let their feet grow. They sold soaked pears but I never bought them. But people liked the pears with vodka. Especially workers. After the revolution they all disappeared for some reason. Probably came back to China.
My first job was in Goznak. I used to count money there. If some bank note disappeared we could not leave all night long, till it was found.
We had different manners. Guys could not grab or embrace girls. And look what happens today. That’s the reason why it’s difficult to marry a right guy today, girls are too accessible.
I have always been strict to myself, always tried to look fine.
The best thing is when friends get together, have fun and dance. I had a nice gramophone. There was an angel under its cover. Moscow had only two such gramophones, one was ours and another one belonged to Sholokhov.
A woman must always be decent. I had been dating my future husband for four years before we got married. For all these 4 years we even had no thought to take liberties. And he was awesome. Ceremonious, honest, like from some other planet.
I like Putin. It’s nice to listen to him. He has two daughters and a dog and he treats them strictly. He always sends me congrats, wishes me health.
The most terrible thing is when life goes wrong. It’s awful when love is gone…
What can I wish? I am already 102 years old, I have everything and had everything too…”