Sitting in her kitchen in France, Jeanne Pouchain remembers the day she discovered that she was dead.
It was when she read an official letter from the court of appeal in the nearby city of Lyon stating that she had died and asking her relatives to pay money she was alleged to have owed.
“My problem is that I’ve been declared dead,” said the former boss of a cleaning firm from the rural commune of Saint-Joseph in eastern France.
“I’m alive for my husband, for my son, for my loved ones, for the people around me, but for the justice system, I’m dead.”
It is not clear how the error came about.
The ruling that Pouchain was dead was made in 2017, and since then she has been trying to have it overturned, but her efforts have been caught up in a tangle of red tape.
In the meantime, her life is curtailed: she does not have a social security number, she cannot drive in case she is stopped and her documents are checked, and she dreads doing grocery shopping because she might be asked for documents.
“I feel like I’m living a nightmare,” she said.
Her lawyers have petitioned a court to grant a hearing so they can present their case that their client is not dead.
“The most important thing is to prove that I’m alive. To prove I exist,” said Pouchain. “I want the state to return my identity.”