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In Anton Chekov's tragicomedy, the delusionary Madame Ranyevska and her brother Gayev cannot imagine that there is no escaping their dilemma of losing the family lands. In Act I, the unrealistic Gayev consoles the weeping Varya, telling her that he has a remedy to keep the family from losing the cherry orchard:
"...it would be nice to go to Yaroslav and try my luck with my aunt the Countess. My aunt is very, very rich...the countess."
However, the aunt, Gayev continues, does not like them for the one reason that his sister Ranyevskaya married "an ordinary lawyer" instead of "a gentleman with property." When Anya hears of her uncle's plan, she declares in sympathy for her family, "I don't like our great aunt."
Later, in Aunt II, Gayev tells his sister Ranyevskaya,
"Our aunt in Yaroslvl has promised to send something, but when and how much --that we don't know."
Further, in Act III, in the ballroom, Ranyevskaya worries that there is no word from Lopakhin on the sale of the orchard. Trying to calm her, Varya says,
"Uncle has bought it--I'm sure of that....Great-aunt gave him authority to purchase it in her name, and to transfer the mortgage to her. It was all for Anya's sake....
Of course, the purchase of the land is made by the former serf, Lopakhin, and the aristocratic family must vacate the premises. In Act IV, Ranyevskaya takes her leave of her daughter Anya, telling her not to worry because when she arrives in Paris, she will live on the money that "your great-aunt in Yarolslav" has sent to purchase the estate; however, it will not last long. And, so, the countess is an aunt to Ranyevskaya and Gayev; she is, therefore, a great-aunt to Anya, but no name is given to her in the play, perhaps because she is less a real identity than a wish of the widowed landowner and her frivolous brother.
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