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Georgia: portrait from Zugdidi

24-09-2008 Feature

Many people who fled conflict in Abkhazia in 1992-3 remain displaced in Western Georgia and are now being joined by families made homeless by the recent fighting. A visiting ICRC team, including Jessica Barry, has been checking on their wellbeing.

 One woman’s shrinking fortunes  

   
  ©ICRC/J.Barry    
 
  Nadia being welcomed by the director of an old folks' home.    
     

Nadezhda Sokolova was born in Belarus in 1935 and grew up in the Russian town of Oremburg. She married a Georgian and went to live in Sukhumi, on Abkhazia's Black Sea coast. When conflict broke out in the r egion in 1992, Nadia, as everyone called her, and her husband fled to a village close to Zugdidi.

The couple were poor, although they owned land. They lived in a small, shed-like house which had a big, rambling garden.

Over the years tragedies befell the family. Nadia's eyesight began to fail. In 2007, her husband died. Soon afterwards Nadia went blind.

Although well known in the village, she was left very much alone after her bereavement. A neighbour kept an eye on her and brought her food. 

During the war that broke out last August, people ran from areas along the Inguri river as Russian troops advanced towards Zugdidi. Everyone in Nadia's village including her neighbour fled. Nadia was left completely alone.

 Hope at last  

    

Thanks to some soldiers, who informed the ICRC about her plight, the old lady was not abandoned for long.

Delegates came to the village on 24 August and found her in her shack which contained just an iron bedstead, an old mattress and a rickety chair.

In the days that followed they made frequent visits, bringing with them sheets, slippers, clothes and food. Nadia, despite her blindness, was bright and sharp and not afraid to speak her mind.

" I miss not having someone to talk to, " she confided to her visitors one day. " I wish I could leave here. "  

It was in a way a cry for help. 

The team searched for an old folks’ home where Nadia could find again the care and companionship she lost when her husband died. Thanks to the Georgian Red Cross a suitable place was quickly identified. Nadia was overjoyed.

The necessary paperwork was completed within days. The only thing she regretted about leaving, Nadia said, was the thought of not being able to visit her husband's grave, which was in the village.

On the way to her new home on 16 September she bought a bag of toffees as a gift for the staff, who greeted her with hugs and smiles.

" We have a lady here from Ukraine, " the director told her, introducing Nadia to a sprightly old woman in a blue cardigan and black bonnet. " You will be able to talk to each other in Russian. "

" I will take you around, you mustn’t worry, " said her new companion. 

As the ICRC delegates who had accompanied Nadia were preparing to leave an hour later, the two of them were still deep in conversation, sitting side by side on Nadia's bed in the bright, cosy, lace-curtained bedroom.