Women, War and Peace

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WOMEN WAR & PEACE DIRECTORY (CLICK TO VIEW):

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Women, War and Peace is an innovative yearlong transnational project with four European partners from Ireland, Spain, Germany and Poland. The project uses creative processes of theatre and film to explore the role of women in Europe from WWII and the power of the EU in promoting peace and gender equality today.  The project is co-funded by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Reconciliation Fund and the four European partners are Smashing Times Theatre Company, Ireland, www.smashingtimes.ie; Institute de Formacion Y Estudios Sociales (IFES), Valencia, Spain, www.ifes.es; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universitaet, Hannover, Germany, www.uni-hannover.de; and the University of Humanities and Economics in Lodz, Poland, www.ahe.lodz.pl. Smashing Times were delighted to welcome the Drama Department, School of Drama, Film and Music, Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College as a partner for the Women War and Peace International Symposium and performance.

As part of this project, we researched 23 women’s stories from WWIII – 8 from Ireland, 5 from Spain, 5 from Germany and 5 from Poland – in order to promote a remembrance of European history with a focus on women’s experiences of WWII and ways to promote human rights, gender equality and peace today. The stories were gathered by Mary Moynihan, Freda Manweiler, Jessie Maguire, Edyta Pietrzak, Inga Kuzma, Fernando Benavente Tendillo and  Arne Schrader and included in a Women War and Peace Book containing articles, research and 23 women’s stories from WWII and the Holocaust from Ireland, Spain, Germany and Poland – highlighting stories of those who campaigned against Nazism and Fascism, spoke out against totalitarianism and advocated for peace. The book will be launched at the Oak Room, The Mansion House, Dublin on 8 November  2016 by international human rights activist Mary Lalwor, founder of Front Line Defenders.

Creative outputs were an original script and theatre performance of The Woman is Present: Women’s Stories of WWII by Deirdre Kinahan, Mary Moynihan, Fiona Bawn Thompson and Paul Kennedy, performed at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College Dublin on the 14, 15, 16 September 2016 and a short film Tell Them Our Names to be distributed to festivals internationally. Tell Them Our Names will be viewed in Ireland, Spain, Germany and Poland and is inspired by women’s stories of WWII. The screenplay is by Paul Kennedy, Mary Moynihan and Fiona Bawn Thompson from a devising process with artists Mary Moynihan, Raymond Keane, Fiona Bawn-Thompson, Romana Testasecca and Margaret Toomey – bringing different artists together to create a remembrance of women’s stories from World War II and ways to promote peace.

The performance and film are creative re-imaginings of moments from the lives of women during WWII recalling stories of bravery, sacrifice and love amidst the horror of war, as the women stood up against Fascism and totalitarianism and refused to accept oppression. A Women War and Peace International Symposium was held on the 16 September and a Women War and Peace Youth Symposium took place on the 15 September for second-level schools and youth groups (invitation only), both held at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin. Speakers at the international symposium included key note speakerDijana Milosevic, Dah Theatre, Serbia, Senator Ivana Bacik, Ireland and guest speakers from Ireland, Spain, Germany and Poland. Activities included  workshops, plenary sessions, discussion, debate, performances and a film launch. The symposium was presented by the four project partners in association with the Drama Department, School of Drama, Film and Music, Samuel Beckett Theatre,

The project resulted in the creation of a Remembrance Through Drama Workshop Model and a series of fun-based EU-linked activities in four European partner countries to promote remembrance, debate and learning in relation to women’s experiences of WWII and the role of the EU today for promoting peace, democracy and gender equality, attended by 500 young people and adults.  100 people completed an on-line questionnaire, two transnational partner meetings were held and ongoing throughout the lifetime of the project was a series of dissemination activities reaching over one million people.

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Outcomes

By remembering women’s stories of WWII we hope to play a part in ensuring we do not forget the atrocities committed by totalitarian regimes when innocent people were murdered. The aim is not to glorify war but to acknowledge the human cost of war, the atrocities and destruction that occurred and to acknowledge the voices and experiences of women in order to reveal a wider picture of what happened. People and nation states suffer when human values such as respect, tolerance and democracy are destroyed. Remembering lessons of the past is a prerequisite for building a brighter future. The aim is to remember and learn from history with a view to preventing similar atrocities from happening in the future and at the same time to remember the many different roles played by ordinary, yet extraordinary women during World War II who found their own way to stand up against fascism and totalitarianism and who refused to accept oppression.  Outcomes include

  • Series of activities implemented that involves citizens in EU-linked fun activities to promote remembrance, debate and learning in relation to women’s stories of WWII and the role of the EU today to promote peace and gender equality
  • Raised awareness of 23 women’s stories including those women who campaigned against Nazism and Fascism, spoke out against totalitarianism and advocated for peace with the stories celebrated and restored and full acknowledgement of the extraordinary contribution these women played in history
  • Raised awareness of value of women’s stories to remember and highlight the role played by ordinary, yet extraordinary women in World War II
  • In addition to the on-line book the audiences attending the performances fully engaged with the performances on an emotional level which allowed for a deeper connection and understanding of the stories presented
  • Raised awareness of how to promote equality, tolerance and peace at local, national and EU levels
  • Making women visible in society and promoting women’s rights and peace at local, national and European levels
  • Cultural heritage fostered by telling the hidden or forgotten stories of women and new narratives and role models provided for young people today
  • Challenge to the traditional narrative of history that has silenced women’s voices and experiences
  • Inspiring pride in the values these women had for freedom and democracy and by illuminating the past through creative processes the project has inspired young people and adults in terms of active citizenship

Engaging young people and adults and promoting diversity 

The project was open to young people and adults from a range of communities. The arts can play a powerful role in promoting peace and respect for different cultures and traditions. In presenting pictures of women from different communities (through the stories, workshops and international symposium and encouraging young people to recognise the different stories and traditions that exist, the project encourages people to be more lenient and accepting of differences in their own lives today which is turn stimulates mutual respect.  The stories encourage young people not only to remember other stories in the past but to look at their own stories today and the stories of those from different cultures around them. Telling the stories of women from different countries passes on knowledge and helps to create a respect for different cultures and traditions.

A key part of the project is to firstly to remember what happened in history so it cannot be repeated and secondly to acknowledge and affirm gender equality and women’s rights as human rights. Women’s rights are  an integral part of building peace and of the social economic, political and cultural human rights laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As part of this project workshop participants explore the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, generating awareness of gender equality and the need for diversity. The workshop model encourages young people to discover stories of women in history as well as about women in their own lives, their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers and their fathers and grandfathers as this can help them to better understand their lives and the challenges they faced.

Fostering intangible cultural heritage, women’s rights and peace

This project fosters cultural heritage by recognizing, celebrating and restoring the hidden or forgotten stories of women.  By telling these stories and illuminating them through performance and film the project is firstly challenging traditional narratives of history that has silenced women’s voices and experiences and secondly is raising awareness of intangible cultural heritage and providing new narratives and role models for young people today. In caring for historical memories of women from different societies women’s lives are recognized and acknowledged and the values, lifestyles and believes these women had are remembered.

As students are not learning about these women in their school curriculum the stories have in a sense been airbrushed from history. By denying women an equal role in history, society creates distorted or stereotyped perceptions of women. Encouraging young people to go out and read Marta Hiller’s diary not only raises awareness of the bravery and courage of this extraordinary women but also encourages young people to learn about life at the end of World II and the devastating consequences of war on ordinary people as well as giving Marta her rightful place in history.

The stories inspire pride in the values these women had for freedom and democracy and by illuminating the past through creative processes the project can inspire and show young people how to be become active citizens today. Hearing these stories ensures that young men and women today are hearing a different narrative, one that gives them new role models that inspire a sense of achievement in relation to women’s contribution to society particularly when it comes to advocating for peace.

If young women continue to read history books that tell mainly men’s stories from history, young women will learn they are worth ‘less’. By recognizing and raising awareness of women’s contribution to society as told through these stories, we are acknowledging the dynamic role of women in both private and public life and the value to society they bring. Hearing stories about powerful women and giving women a stronger presence in history and cultural memories encourages self-respect and empowers both young women and men to become more active in society.

Many of these women were pioneers and their bravery and courage shines through. The powerful nature of the stories which is clearly illuminated through theatre and film ensures a strong impact on audiences. This creates a stronger understanding of the stories so people will value them and want to learn and know more. Recognizing the dignity and accomplishments of women in the past can lead to higher self-esteem among girls and greater respect among boys and men and encourage young people to achieve more. Remember and recognising the struggles, dreams successes and achievements  of women in the past plays a vital role in giving us strength and inspiration today. Remembering these stories and having a truly balanced and inclusive history recognizes how important women have always been in European society and acts as a catalyst for promoting women as influential sources today.

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Women War and Peace Book

A Women War and Peace book is available on-line through each partner website that can be read by everybody to promote a remembrance of women’s stories and experiences during WWII and ways to promote human rights, gender equality and peace today.

The book contains 23 Stories of women’s experiences during WWII successfully collected from Ireland, Spain, Germany and Poland including those women who promoted liberty and actively campaigned against Fascism and Nazism and advocated for peace. The stories reflect on WWII as well as the Spanish Civil War and the Irish Uprising of 1916.

The stories from Ireland are Mary Elmes, Ettie Steinberg, Margaret Skinnider, Josephine Alexandra Mitchell, Dorothy Macardle, Mary Fleming and Aileen Turner, and Louise Graham, née Boyle. The stories from Spain are Federica Montseny Mañe, Pilar Tendillo Haro, Rosa Estruch Espinos, Neus Català Pallejà and Dolores Ibárruri, La Pasionaria. The stories from Germany are Anna Seghers, Esther Bauer, Sophie Scholl, Marta Hillers and Gertrud Pötzinger. The stories from Poland are Alina Szapocznikow, Maria Eugenia Jasińska, the story of homeless women in Łódź during WWII, Regina (Inka) Milichtajch and Johanna Majewska.

The aim is for people to enjoy reading the women’s stories to remember and highlight the role played by ordinary, yet extraordinary women in World War II and to raise awareness of the need to work in a pro-active way for human rights, gender equality and peace, to celebrate diversity and the empowerment of all people equally.

The book contains articles and research on the rise of totalitarianism in Europe, the causes and impact of the Second World War and the development of human rights, gender equality and peace. Articles include The Second World War: A Global Conflict by Mary Moynihan; The roots of hate: Fascism, Nazism, totalitarianism and war by Kilian Cuerda Ros and a key note article Human Rights and Gender Equality by Edyta Pietrzak and Inga Kuzma. The booklet contains information on the United Nations, the Declaration of Human Rights, how to influence the EU and EU common laws, policies and procedures for promoting human rights, gender equality and peace.

Finally the book contains a three-hour Women War and Peace Remembrance Through Drama Workshop model that uses drama and theatre to actively involve citizens in fun activities to promote remembrance, diversity and learning in relation to women’s stories from WWII and the role of the EU to promote peace and gender equality today. The booklet contains detailed instructions for artists, facilitators and educators on how to conduct the practical, fun-based drama workshop with young people (ages 14 plus) and adults.

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Theatre Performance: The Woman is Present: Women Stories of WWII

The theatre performance The Woman is Present: Women’s Stories of World War II premiered at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin, on the 14, 15, 16 September 2016, nightly at 7.30pm and was attended by 289 people. The performances are re-imagined moments from the lives of women in WWII recalling stories of bravery, sacrifice and love as powerful women stood up against Fascism and refused to accept oppression.

The performance features the world premiere of Ode to Ettie Steinberg by internationally-acclaimed playwright Deirdre Kinahan and new Irish writing by Mary Moynihan, Fiona Bawn Thompson and Paul Kennedy recalling the stories of Margaret Skinnider and Mary Elmes from Ireland, Neus Català Pallejà and Dolores Ibarurri or La Pasionaria from Spain, Marta Hillers from Germany and Maria Eugenia Jasińska from Poland, remembering stories of powerful women during WWII.

Women’s stories that have inspired the performance include Ettie Steinberg (1914-42) the only female Jewish Irish citizen known to have been murdered in Auschwitz; Margaret Skinnider (1893-1971) a revolutionary feminist and maths teacher who came to Dublin from Scotland at the age of 23 to fight in the 1916 Easter Rising and who remained in Ireland and campaigned for women’s rights in the trade union movement from the 1930s onwards; Mary Elmes (1908-2002), a Cork woman who was the first Irish person honoured as ‘Righteous Among Nations’ for her work saving Jewish children from the Nazi gas chambers during World War II; Marta Hillers from Germany who wrote her autobiography Eine Frau in Berlin (A Woman in Berlin) under the name ‘Anonyma’ (Anonymous), detailing her experiences of the last days of WWII as she and over one million other women were raped and abused by Allied soldiers of the Red Army; Neus Català Pallejà from Spain, a member of the United Socialist Party of Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, an active collaborator with the French Resistance during WWII and the only living Spanish survivor of Ravensbrück,  one of the largest concentration camps set up by the Nazis especially for women; Maria Eugenia Jasińska from Łódź in Poland who worked for the resistance and gave up her own life rather than ‘name names’; and Dolores Ibarurri or La Pasionaria (1895-1989), from Spain, a revolutionary leader, political activist, Communist and crusader against Fascism during the Spanish Civil War who created the famous cry ‘They Shall Not Pass’.

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Artists: 

  • Director: Mary Moynihan, Bairbre Ní Chaoimh
    Writer: Mary Moynihan, Deirdre Kinahan, Fiona Bawn Thompson, Paul Kennedy
  • Cast: Fiona Bawn Thompson, Róisín Mc Atamney
  • Producers: Freda Manweiler, Mary Moynihan
    Set Design: Projection/AV Programming: Tara Doolan
    Costume Design: Risa Ando
  • Lighting Design: Cillian McNamara
    Production Stage Manager: Eva Walsh
  • ASM: Melvin Mwongera
    Post-Show Facilitator: Freda Manweiler
  • Post-Show Speakers: Freda Manweiler, producer,  Mary Moynihan, writer and director, Yanky Fachler, Member of the Jewish Community, Róisín Mc Atamney, actor, Fiona Bawn Thompson, actor, Hilary Abrahamson, Member of the Jewish Community, Deirdre Kinahan, writer, Lynn Jackson, Holocaust Education Trust.

Sabina Higgins, Aras an Uachtarain First Lady and patron to Smashing Times Theatre Company, thanked the panel and artists for the stories shared. She praised Smashing Times and their European partners on the performances and the  collection of these stories and the way in which they were executed.  It was agreed by all audience members that the show should be taken on tour to reach a wider audience.

Sabina Coyne Higgins at opening night of The Woman is Present: Women’s Stories of WWII

Sabina Coyne Higgins with cast and company members at the opening night of The Woman is Present: Women’s Stories of WWII

Audience Feedback:

  • ‘The work Smashing Times are doing is so important. We need to hear more of these stories’ Laura Brady, audience member
  • ‘I’m amazed I never heard those stories before. It was so interesting, thank you for a wonderful performance’ Elaine Cronin, Audience member
  • ‘Such a moving piece of theatre. The performances were excellent’ Sabina Higgins, Áras an Uachtaráin First Lady.
  • ‘Thanks Freda and all the cast and crew of The Woman is Present! What a wonderful evening’ Mary Duffin, Audience member
  • ‘Saw ‘The Woman is Present’ last night, a call to the heart: Stop war and trumpet the heroism of women, missing from history’. Dr Eric Weitz, TCD
  •  ‘It was just brilliant! The two actors were phenomenal. Well done to everyone involved!’ Niamh Clowery, Audience member
  • ‘Brilliant, moving, eye opening journy into stories of women’s bravery tonight. Well done to all involved’, Sarah Glennane, Audience Member

Tell Them Our Names Short Film

As part of the project Smashing Times launched a short film Tell Them Our Names directed by Mary Moynihan, edited by Mark Quinn, High Wire Ltd and scripted by Paul Kennedy, Fiona Bawn Thompson and Mary Moynihan from a devising process with the cast consisting of Fiona Bawn Thompson, Romana Testacecca, Raymond Keane, Margaret Toomey, Mary Moynihan and Ella Brady. The film features re-imagined moments from the lives of powerful women during WWII.

Opening on an anonymous beach in Europe, a group of women and children line up in front of a bureaucrat’s desk, only to be barked at by a gate keeper.But the woman are not silent. They are here for a reason. An unexpected act of violence is carried out as the women become authors of their own stories.  Tell Them Our Names is an imagined recreation of the lives of five women; Marta Hillers (Germany), Mary Elmes (Ireland), Maria Eugenia Jasinska (Poland), Neus Catala Palleja (Spain) and Dolores Ibarruri, La Pasionaria (Spain). Their stories have mostly been unheard or buried, now they are voiced. Set in the context of World War 2 and the Spanish Civil War, these powerful women speak of harrowing acts of oppression and inhumane treatment, yet still, despite all the odds, the spirit of defiance and hope rings through. The film is completed and is currently being distributed to film festivals around the world. In 2017 the film will be released on-line and will be available to the general public.

  • Director: Mary Moynihan
  • Editor: Mark Quinn, High Wire Ltd
  • Scriptwriters: Paul Kennedy, Fiona Bawn Thompson and Mary Moynihan from a devising process with the cast
  • Cast: Fiona Bawn Thompson, Romana Testacecca, Raymond Keane, Margaret Toomey, Mary Moynihan, Ella Brady

Women War and Peace International Symposium

  • Venue: Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin
  • Date/Time: 16 September 2016, 9.30am-5pm

The Women War and Peace International Adult Symposium was held at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin on the 16 September 2016, 9.30am-5pm.  The symposium featured guest speakers, workshops, a film launch, reflection, discussion and debate. The symposium brought artists and the general public together to create a remembrance of women’s stories from World War II and to explore the power of the arts and the EU in promoting peace and gender equality.

The international guest speaker was Dijana Milošević, director of the DAH Theatre Research Centre in Belgrade, Serbia. DAH Theatre was founded out of the need for experimental theatre work, reflecting historical and political aspects of Serbian society. Dijana facilitated a master class theatre workshop to explore  ‘what role can the arts play in promoting women’s rights, gender equality and peace’ at local, national and European levels. We were delighted to have Senator Ivana Bacik, LLB, LLM (Lond), BL, FTCD, the Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin, speaking.  She is a qualified Barrister and a Senior Lecturer and Fellow of Trinity College Dublin (elected in 2005). Her grandfather Karel Bacik was in the Czech resistance and was imprisoned by the Nazis.   After the war, he moved to Ireland with his young family, where they lived in Waterford. 

The international partner speakers were Edyta Pietrza, Ph.D, University of Humanities and Economics in Lodz, Poland; Inga B. Kuzma, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of Culture, University of Łódź, Poland; Arne Schrader, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universitaet, Hannover, Germany; Fernando Benavente, Instituto de Formacion Y Estudios Sociales (IFES), Valencia, Spain  and Àfrica Díez Álvarez, Gavina Cooperative School, Valencia Spain. The full range of artists and guest speakers included Moynihan, theatre and film maker, Maureen Hetherington, from Towards Understanding and Healing, The Junction, Derry/Londonderry, Deirdre Toomey, Practitioner in Human Rights and Community Development, Áine Stapleton, Dance Artist and Performer, Paul Kennedy, writer, Chrissie Poulter, Trinity College Dublin, Salome Mbugua, Head of Missions, Wezesha and Audrey Keane, Information and Advice Officer, Creative Europe Desk, The Arts Council.

Moderators: 

  • Freda Manweiler, Company Manager, Smashing Times Theatre Company
  • Mary Moynihan, Artist and Artistic Director, Smashing Times Theatre Company
  • Paul Kennedy, Writer
  • Dijana Milosevic, Director, DAH Theatre Research Centre, Belgrade, Serbia
  • Chrissie Poulter, Head of Drama, School of Drama, Film and Music, TCD

Artists and Guest Speakers:

  • Dijana Milosevic, Director, DAH Theatre Research Centre, Belgrade, Serbia
  • Mary Moynihan, Theatre and film maker, Smashing Times Theatre Company
  • Fiona Bawn Thompson, Smashing Times Theatre Company
  • Edyta Pietzra, PhD, University of Humanities and Economics on Lodz, Poland
  • Arne Schrader, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universitaet, Hannover, Germany
  • Fernando Benavente, Instituto de Formacion Y Estudios Sociales (IFES), Valencia, Spain
  • Africa Díez Alvarez, Gavina Cooperative School, Valencia, Spain
  • Senator Ivana Bacik, Ireland
  • Inga B. Kuzma, phD institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of Culture, University of Lodz, Poland
  • Deirdre Toomey, Practitioner in Human Rights and Community Development
  • Freda Manweiler, Smashing Times Theatre Company
  • Maureen Hetherington, Coordinator Towards Understanding and Healing, The Junction, Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland
  • Áine Stapleton, Dance Artist and Performance
  • Salome Mbugua, Head of Missions, Wezesha
  • Audrey Keane, Information and Advice Officer, Creative Europe Desk, The Arts Council

Feedback and Evaluation

  • ‘Superb! Way exceeded my expectations and is sending me away with lots of food for thought. Thank you so much.’
  •  ‘I feel so grateful to have been present for the discussions offered today- extremely inspiring Thank you.’
  •  ‘A transformational day. Only wish there was more time for discussion.’
  •  ‘Fantastically run. Thank you. For all those that instinctively react negatively when they hear “feminism” I think it’s important to take some of the ideas presented today to reach out and break that block’
  •  ‘Congratulations on a successful event.  You had great engagement from everybody there.’ Audrey Keane, Information and Advice Officer, Creative Europe Desk, The Arts Council
  • ‘This was an amazing day I’m really proud to be associated with it’ Edyta Pietrza
  • ‘I loved the performance. I had researched Neus and it was so moving to see her story brought to life’ Fernando Benavente, Instituto de Formacion Y Estudios Sociales
  • ‘I realised that my aunt was caught up in the same violence in Valencia as Neus. They were there at the same time’ Fernando Benavente, Instituto de Formacion Y Estudios Sociales
  • ‘The performances at the symposium were so moving they really brought the characters to life’ Arne Schrader, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universitaet
  • ‘I attended the cross boarder peace discussion in the afternoon. Maureen Heatherington’s presentation on patriarchy really made me think’ William Caughey
  • ‘That was a great day I was proud to be a part of it all’ Paul Kennedy
    ‘I found the event very inspiring. I will consider spending a day volunteering with the refugees and direct provision.’ Karen Ward

Panel of speakers at Women War and Peace International Symposium

Feedback from Youth Symposium

  • ‘The two drama pieces were excellent and readily understood by the group.’ Mick Fox, 5th Year Head, St Paul’s CBS Secondary School
  • ‘it was not something which they had much considered so simply engaging in such an exercise was positive.’ Mick Fox, 5th Year Head, St Paul’s CBS Secondary School
  • ‘The concept was fantastic and something I feel is extremely worthwhile.’ Aoife Rodgers, Transition Year Co-ordinator, St Louis High School
  • ‘it opened their eyes somewhat to new experiences or more to the point, to look at the issue of gender equality from a different point of view’’. Mick Fox, 5th Year Head, St Paul’s CBS Secondary School
  • ‘I loved the play. We need more workshops like this’  St Louis Student
  • ‘Thanks very much, that was really good’ Synge Street Student
  • ‘Can we come again next year? We always really enjoy Smashing Times workshops’ St Paul’s Student
  • ‘It was interesting to see everyone’s opinion on the topic. Everyone should be treated equally’ St Paul’s Student
  • ‘I really enjoyed learning about the struggle the women had to go through’ St Paul’s Student

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