The world's oldest man is Alexander Imich, 111, a Jewish Pole who escaped the Holocaust, spent time in a Soviet gulag and now lives in New York City.
Born in 1903, he has been validated as the world’s oldest male supercentenarian (those over 110), according to the Gerontology Research Group of Torrance, California. The previous record holder was Arturo Licata of Italy, who died on April 24 at 111 years and 357 days.
“I didn’t have time yet to think about it,” Imich said, when asked by the New York Times what it felt like to be the world's oldest man. The paper described him as "stick-thin with vein-roped hands, bristly whiskers and an enviable shock of hair."
A scholar of the occult, Imich grew fascinated with a Polish medium known as Matylda S. in the 1930s. He participated in numerous inexplicable encounters, which he recounted in “Incredible Tales of the Paranormal,” an anthology published in 1995.
According to the New York Times, Imich first married a childhood sweetheart and later her friend, Wela, after his first wife left him for another man. When the Nazis overran Poland in 1939, he and Wela fled east to Soviet-occupied Bialystok. Refusing to accept Soviet nationality, they were shipped to a labor camp.
Returning to Poland after the war, they found that many family members had died in the Holocaust. In 1951 the couple immigrated to the United States, where Wela, a painter and psychotherapist, opened a practice in Manhattan. Wela died in 1986.
Asked by the Times for his secrets of longevity, Imich ventured that the fact that he and his wife never had children might have helped. He gave up smoking long ago and he never touched alcohol.
The Times asked whether he thought his many hardships had prolonged his life? “'It’s hard to say.' He credited 'good genes' and athletics. 'I was a gymnast,' he said. 'Good runner, a good sprinter. Good javelin, and I was a good swimmer.'”
He always ate sparingly, inspired by Eastern mystics who disdain food. “There are some people in India who do not eat,” he said admiringly. These days, his tastes run to matzo balls, gefilte fish, chicken noodle soup, Ritz crackers, scrambled eggs, chocolate and ice cream.
Close acquaintances attribute Imich's longevity to his ever-curious mind. Recently he wondered “How long can this go on?” But he was cheerful, noting, “The compensation for dying is that I will learn all the things I was not able to learn here on Earth.”
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