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Ms. Dolmazashvili is almost blind and confined to her tiny room that holds nothing but a bed, a closet and a chair. A small table in the corner serves as a kitchen.

“The problem is that our Natasha often sets her house on fire,” the nurse laughed. “She just likes giving me more work.”

Between them an affectionate abundance of jokes and tricks has developed since Ms. Vartanova started visiting three years ago. There is a whole range of responsibilities that she has taken, and they go far beyond meeting Ms. Dolmazashvili’s basic needs.

To illustrate one of the nurse’s responsibilities, Ms. Dolmazashvili’s stretched her hand out and a wide smile brightened her face: “Do you like my nails?”

It is impossible not to like them. Her hands are beautiful and the pink polish of her perfectly shaped nails clashes with the deprived surroundings of her tiny room.

When we left the room, Ms. Vartanova’s face became serious again.

“She is a courageous woman. She never whines, she always tries to be cheerful and always tries to look good. That’s admirable.”

As the nurse made her way to the household of another retired, bedridden patient she reflected on her work. “At least we manage to help some of them. But there are so many whom we are not able to reach.”

Caritas’ work may be a drop in the huge ocean of misery and poverty that comes with age in Georgia. But for people like Vera or Natasha, this drop has provided not only food and medicine, but also the warmth of human interaction – and for the Natashas and Veras of Georgia, this has made an ocean of difference.

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Tbilisi-based writer Natalia Antelava is a BBC News Online correspondent.



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