updated 05/07/2014 AT 12:15 PM ET
•originally published 05/06/2014 AT 11:30 AM ET
As a young man, Poland’s Alexander Imich fought the Soviets, studied paranormal activity and spent World War II in a Russian gulag. In the 1950s, he immigrated to America, where he recently celebrated his 111th birthday – officially making him the oldest man in the world.
Imich achieved the rare feat after the death of Italy’s Arturo Licata on April 24. He is five years younger than Misao Okawa, the world’s oldest woman.
Before living into his second century, Imich was famous as a researcher of paranormal psychology. He is a fan of spoon-bending magician Uri Geller and in 2002 proposed “a new Nobel Prize” for fields like astronomy and philosophy. He has lived in New York City since the death of his wife in 1986.
Still, though, he declines to give specific longevity advice.
“I don’t know,” he told NBC New York, when asked how he had managed to become the world’s oldest man. “I simply didn’t die earlier.”
He added: “I have no idea how this happened.”
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