Nikita Belyaev will turn 102 later this year. Despite his advanced age, he still takes pleasure in life. The old man not only survived a serious head injury, he also managed to recover following two surgical operations for the removal of malignant tumor.
Nikita was born at the beginning of the 20th century. He can still remember those distant days when his parents, the sharecroppers, would take him to the fields at the time of harvest. A week of sharecropping would enable a peasant to earn enough to last till the next spring. The peasants were not happy at all as they watched their landowner’s estate being torched during the revolution. “This is just the beginning. It won’t take them long to get us too,” said some of the villagers.
Nikita got married in Stalin’s time. He was called up and sent to the front soon after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Two months later he was badly injured. The bullet went right through his head. A part of Nikita’s face was gone. He spent four long days lying semiconscious among the bodies of his dead comrades. The medics found him in a crater on the fifth day. He was sent to an army hospital in Leningrad.
It was a miracle that his brain had not been damaged. But Nikita had to undergo four operations on his head. The surgeons had to literally reconstruct his face piece by piece. Nikita was bed-ridden for next six weeks. He lost one of his eyes and most of his teeth. But he survived.
A professor who repaired Nikita’s face warned him that he might succumb to cancer one day because of a skin graft, which had been taken from a donor. Seven years later the first signs of a malignant tumor appeared on Nikita’s upper lip. A growth kept developing despite therapy. He sank into despair when he was eventually diagnosed with cancer.
Nikita was 43 years at the time. He had five children to raise, his youngest daughter was just five. So he made up his mind to fight till the end. He had surgery and recovered miraculously fast. But the disease struck back 12 years later. The doctors were very pessimistic about the outcome of surgery that time. Nikita even said goodbye to his loved ones before nurses wheeled him off to an operating theater. Several months later he got back home. It was his third resurrection. “Now you’re going to last a hundred years,” said his neighbor when he saw Nikita sitting at the porch.
Looks like the forecast became a reality. Nikita’s 60-year-old daughter Lydia says his dad has no special recipe for longevity. “Since my early years I remember him drink a drop of vodka and have a bit of lard every morning before his breakfast. My dad said he was following the professor’s advice. That vodka-and-lard thing must be his magic potion. But he never drank alcohol at the parties,” says Lydia with a smile. The old man himself says he has lived for so long because God let him do so.
Translated by Guerman Grachev