Greece’s oldest woman, Katerina Karnarou, has passed away at the age of 115.
Greek Reporter conducted an interview with Karnarou in 2018, when she was a mere 113, in which she told fascinating stories of her life and the monumental ways in which Greece has changed in the more than a century that she was alive.
Karnarou was a witness to some of history’s most important events — she was thirteen when the First World War ended, and 39 when the Nazis left Greece in 1944.
Born in the town of Grylos in the Peloponnese, Karnarou later moved to the nearby town of Krestena, where she lived with her family until her death.
Karnarou’s family, which extended to great-great-grandchildren, was her wealth, according to her grandson.
As a young mother, Karnarou worked in the fields with her family’s livestock, a job that she described as difficult — not only because it required both strength and endurance, but also time away from her children. Even though those times were hard, she said that she believed that time was better than today.
One of the best memories of her life, she related, was getting married, even though her husband’s family didn’t approve of the match at first.
The couple met while they were both working in the fields, and they fell in love almost immediately. However, there was an age difference between Karnarou and her husband, Sofoklis, and his family wasn’t pleased.
Sofoklis devised a plot with his friends in order to marry the love of his life. One day, he walked around the town shirtless, which was unacceptable at the time, and then went home and locked himself in his room. His father, concerned that something was wrong with his son, called the local doctor.
The doctor, in on the plot, examined Sofoklis and told his father that his son was suffering some sort of ailment — possibly “a broken heart.” He asked if there was a woman that his son loved, and his father admitted that there was, but she was too old for him.
The doctor advised the father to accept Katerina, or else he could lose his son.
After that, Karnarou was warmly accepted into her husband’s family. Tragically, her husband ended up dying at a relatively young age, and Karnarou had to raise her children alone.
Despite the periods of great difficulty in her life, Karnarou stated that she “was in the company of good people,” and she owed her long life to God.
When asked what she would tell the youth of today, she said simply, “If you’re a good person, everyone will love you. If you’re not, they won’t want you.”