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[Page 155]

Our High–School


A Symposium on “Tarbut” Gymnasium

by Alexander Shapira

Translated by Sara Mages

I served as a teacher in the gymnasium for four years, in the years 1921–1923 and in the years 1931–1932, and I can say for sure: these were the most beautiful years of my life. The atmosphere in the institution, the collaboration between the teachers, especially the spirit of the principal, Berger, which prevailed in the gymnasium, created a good spirit and a good atmosphere.

As we know, the gymnasium grew out of the kindergarten under the management of aunt Manya, but by the time I started teaching, there were already three grades in the institution. I started teaching even though I was not a qualified teacher but a graduate of the government gymnasium. Mr. Berger offered me to teach geography and history in Hebrew, maybe because he knew that I had some teaching experience because I gave private lessons to students in these subjects, or because it was difficult in those days to get Jewish teachers to teach in Hebrew, and he did not want to give the Christians a foot hold in the gymnasium. His offer surprised me to some extent because I graduated from the government gymnasium in 1921, and although the proposal itself appealed to me, I still had concerns about my success in the proposed role. Therefore, I consulted the principal of the government gymnasium and he greatly encouraged me to accept the position offered to me. I remember his words very well: “the Hebrew Gymnasium students will excel in their studies, and I know you can be trusted.”

With awe and reverence I entered as a teacher to the classrooms that did not contain many students. In the second grade, for example, there were only seven students aged 13–14 and this, of course, allowed close contact with each of them. Outside the classroom everyone called me by my first name, but in the framework of the class I was addressed in the official version: “Mr. Teacher.”

Among the teachers, who were at that time in the gymnasium, I especially remember a Hebrew teacher from Eretz Yisrael and his name was Epstein. He arrived in Akkerman after he fell ill with a certain disease in Eretz Yisrael and the doctors ordered him to change his place of residence.

As stated above, during the first two years that I taught in the gymnasium I got to know the principal, Berger, and I was very impressed with his personality. He had a sense of leadership and was very knowledgeable in various fields. I have no doubt that he was destined for greatness and Akkerman's framework was too narrow for him. Obviously, the great development of the gymnasium was largely due to the efforts that Berger invested in it.

When I returned to Akkerman in 1931, after I was released from the army and after a period of training in Belgium, I found almost the same communal workers that were there ten years ago. They were headed by Hershel Brudski, Yitzchak Arbeit (he has two sons in Haifa) and others. In this period I taught Romanian in the gymnasium and in one elementary school classroom.

There were also no noticeable changes in the teaching staff during the years of my absent from Akkerman and the good atmosphere was preserved. The number of students increased by a considerable proportion, and most of them were not necessarily wealthy. It was customary to accept every student who applied regardless to the parents' financial ability which is, perhaps, the uniqueness of the gymnasium in Akkerman.

Almost all the students in the institution belonged to a youth movement. The curriculum at the institution was similar to that of the high school curriculum in Romania and conducted according to the government program. However, a definite national spirit prevailed in the institution and it can be said that every teacher in the gymnasium was a Zionist. Supervisors from the State Department of Education frequently visited the institution, and the gymnasium's principal knew how to get along with them. To this day, I keep in touch with my former students and our shared memories of those days are refreshing and encouraging.

[Page 156]

The Hebrew Gymnasium “Tarbut”
Tecsesti–Alba, Romania

[Page 157]



The teachers of “Tarbut” School during the years of the gymnasium's existence

Kindergarten teachers
Stretch Sara (aunt Sara)
Puzis Shoshana (aunt Shoshana)
Kaminker Risia
Shrira Mania (aunt Manya)
Rabinovitch Hadassah (music)
Zuckerman Batya –Friedman

The principal – Yakov Berger

Epstein – Hebrew
Epstein Sara – (kindergarten teacher – teacher)
Berman M. – French
Grozman Meir – Hebrew, history, psychology
Davidson Efraim – Hebrew, Bible
Helman Sonia – Latin
Cohen (Kogen) Moshe – singing and music
Malamud Etya
Novak – Hebrew, Bible
Nutov Moshe – biology, natural sciences
Yehusua Neiman – mathematics, physicsv Stretch Meir – Bible
Serfer Boia
Feinblatt – Hebrew
Fisher Leah
Plutizer Faniav Zukerman Zina
Tcherniavsky Moshe – mathematics, physics
Dr. Zerling Shaul – hygiene
Rabinovitz Chavav Schwartz – Hebrew
Stern – Hebrew
Sternsaus – Hebrew, history
Shapira Alexander

Secretary: Zukerman Shmuel
Supervisor – Goldman Dora

[Page 158]

Shmuel Naamani

I started working in the gymnasium in October 1922, and from 1924 to 1933 (except for the period of my military service) I served as secretary and treasurer. How did the gymnasium manage to balance its budget? We did not receive a large allowance from the municipality, from the community's “Korovka” money [tax on consumer goods and commercial transactions] and “Tarbut” center in Kishinev [Chișinău]. However, all of these, in addition to tuition, were not enough to ensure the payment of the teachers' salaries. Therefore, special activities, balls and the like had to be organized to fill what was missing in the budget. Sometimes, as treasurer, I had to play a very unpleasant role and sent home students whose parents did not meet their financial obligation. We usually tried to avoid these steps and only punished those who could pay – and did not pay.

I collaborated the whole way with Mr. Berger. At times, I was really amazed by his maneuverability of the Ministry of Education's inspectors. Not all the teachers had the qualifications required of a high school teacher, and if a certain teacher aroused the suspicion of the inspector, who began to question him, Berger always managed to distract the inspector with another matter and in this way rescued the particular teacher from the government inspector. The gymnasium was not just a teaching institution, but the spiritual center of 1,200 Jewish families who centered in Akkerman. All of the school's halls and equipment, including the gymnasium and its equipment, were available to the public and the activities in the school were conducted day and evening. Every Zionist emissary, who visited the gymnasium, praised the many achievements of the dedicated teaching staff, especially the principal who worked diligently on the development of the institution.


Asher Brudski

I was eight–and–a–half years old in 1919 when I took the exams to be admitted to the gymnasium. Twenty five children, whose parents wanted them to attend a Hebrew school and not be forced to desecrate the Sabbath as the students of the government school, took the exams with me. It is therefore not surprising that among the first students were the children of religious families, butchers, rabbis (Zuckerman) and others. More than sixty years have passed since I took these exams, but I remember this ritual well. My examiner was Berger who sorted out the students according to their knowledge of the Hebrew language. He asked me the meaning of the word tachana, and I replied “a mill.” Berger said: nice, but there is another kind of tachana and I did not know he meant the train station. In arithmetic I was asked how much is it 8 times 3, and I was able to answer correctly. On the basis of these questions he classified me to first grade. Those, who knew less than me, were sent to the preparatory program.

As we know, Milstein made his building, which was initially used as a Russian school, available to the gymnasium. A large courtyard surrounded the building and, apart from the classrooms, there was a large hall which was also used for various conferences. Once, I opened an old cupboard, which stood in the gymnasium's building, and discovered a treasure trove of books in Russian. Almost all the books were of Russian classical writers: Pushkin, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, etc. I remember that I showed these books to my best friend, Sheraga Cohen z”l, who was an avid reader, and he jumped at this finding as if he had found a great booty.

The Russian language was taught in the gymnasium also after the Romanians entered Akkerman, but, slowly–slowly, the process of Romanization intensified and all sorts of unfortunate people, who were sent to us by the Ministry of Education, had to oversee this process.

In class we spoke in Yiddish that many Russian words were incorporated in it. And so we used to say, for example: “gib mir di spichki (give me the matches) or “tetrad” (notebook). In my class there were only two children who did not know Yiddish. The “Yiddishstim” did not have their own school and they barricaded themselves in the “League” library that most of its books were, of course, in Yiddish.

Of the teachers in the gymnasium it is worth noting some special characters. One of them was my first Hebrew teacher – Stern. He was an elderly Jew with a beard, spoke Hebrew in Ashkenazi accent and understood all the paths of the language and its development. However, most of his strength was in singing. He taught us Israeli songs that were the hits of those days (Hayarden Mitlakhesh, Zion Tamati, and more). In these songs we poured our feelings with him. By the way, Stern's daughter was the wife of the well–known writer Aharon Ever–Hadani (Feldman).

A special character was also the teacher Epstein. His wife was a kindergarten teacher and he arrived to us from Eretz Yisrael. Like Eliezer Ben–Yehudah he decided to speak only in Hebrew, whether they will understand him or not. He did not deviate, not even a tad, from this sacred principle and spoke only in Hebrew with the gentiles in the market and with the shoe shiner. It turned out that they understood him. His nickname was “The teacher Shalom,” because he greeted everyone he met with Shalom in Hebrew.

I remember well two more teachers–educators, and they are the teacher Schwartz (Hebrew) and Tcherniavsky (mathematics). Schwartz helped a lot to Tzeirei Zion with his activities. These two teachers taught us for several years and probably did their work with faith. The fact is that when I immigrated to Israel, many were amazed by my eloquent Hebrew speech, my knowledge of the names of the communities in the country and the correct pronunciation. It is also the right of the teacher “Shalom” who made efforts to teach us to distinguishing between Aleph and Ayin, Het and Kaf and the like.

[Page 159]

The teacher Sternsaus, whose nickname was “3 Mal Ka” (the acronym: Commissar Kern Kayemet) is worthy of special recognition for his great dedication to the public library. He made sure that every Hebrew book was found at the library and all his activities in this field were voluntary.

And last but not least, the teacher Feinblatt, who was probably our best teacher. I especially remember his lessons on Yiddish literature.

In 1928 I graduated the gymnasium with the first class. In total we were eight students who graduated because many dropped out over time for various reasons. In any case, among the first graduates were only two that were not included among the first twenty–five students who were admitted to the gymnasium as is told above.

My father was very active for “Tarbut.” He was a General Zionist but not the kind known to us today. He was a Zionist from Weizmann's “heder” and towards the election campaign he came out with all the ammunition and worked day and night for his party.

There were two committees next to the gymnasium: a parent committee and “Tarbut” committee. My father was the secretary of both committees and his dedication to the gymnasium knew no bounds. I remember that he went out to the market, grabbed gentiles who led wagons loaded with bulrush, which was used for heating, and sent them to the gymnasium so that, God forbid, the children would not suffer from the cold. Since he was often an arbitrator in conflicts between a Jew and a Jew, he put two conditions before them before hearing their claims. One – that they would accept his decision, whatever it is. Second condition – instead of an arbitration fee they would give a gift to the gymnasium.

How the gymnasium balanced its budget – is a wonderful thing. It was impossible to exist from the tuition and, in addition, there were quite a few students from poor families who did not pay at all. There's no doubt that the allowance they received from the authority was minimal, and if it wasn't for the various activities, especially the balls whose revenues were dedicated to the gymnasium, the existence of the institution was in danger.

The balls also had a social value apart from their economic value. They employed a lot of people who volunteered, each in his field and ability to help. The preparation for the balls was evident throughout the city. In the Purim balls, “HaMasmer” [the nail], a parody of Megillat Esther was read in the traditional tune and whipped, without mercy, people and institutions of Jewish Akkerman. If I am not mistaken, it was written by three people and they are: Schildcroit, Lyuba Berkowich and Hersh Brudski. One verse is etched in my memory: “whoever can do the job has a blessing from it.” The intention was for those who sat next to the “Korovka” plate, meaning, communal workers who did not enjoy themselves while performing their duties.

The snack bar in these balls, which was laden with wine, liqueur and cakes prepared by volunteer housewives, was also a serious source of income. “Tarbut” committee waited impatiently for the income from these balls to pay off debts, pay the teachers' salaries, etc. Apart from these balls, there were also parties only for the students, such as the Tu B'Shvat party when all the students received small packages containing carobs and figs – fruits from Eretz Yisrael. The principal, Y. Berger, gave a festive speech and every year he told us that the goats eat carobs in Eretz Yisrael, and when we eat these fruits from Eretz Yisrael we can feel the taste of the homeland. I also remember the great assembly, which was held at the Craftsmen Synagogue in 1925, to mark the opening of the university in Jerusalem. My father gave a speech in Hebrew and the grocer, Pesach Levin, who was also given the honor to speak at this assembly, announced in Yiddish: “there (in Jerusalem) the bride is open, and here sits the groom.” After the assembly a festive parade was held on the city streets.

Every year, on May 10 – Romania Independence Day, the gymnasium students participated in a parade on the city streets along with the students of the government gymnasium, military units and more. The gymnasium's orchestra accompanied the marchers with its music and masses of Jews, who crowded in the streets where the parade passed, enjoy the sight of the students of “Tarbut” who marched in formation.

[Page 160]

The Home, the High-School and the Movement

by Baruch Na'amani, Kvutzat Massada

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

During one of our family events, our granddaughter asked: How come that the members of our family did not make Aliya together, but separately, and it took several years until all (except one) were gathered in our land: seven brothers, two sisters and Mother, who arrived illegally at the end of WWII?


This is what I answered, in short:

Our home in Akkerman was a religious home. My father z”l was a ritual slaughterer [SHU”V], the son of the town rabbi, who had come to Akkerman from the Ukraine at the end of the 19-th century. Most of his brothers – my uncles – officiated as rabbis in Akkerman or various other Ukrainian cities. My mother z”l, was also of a family of rabbis for many generations: the Horowitz family, whose ancestor was “The Holy SHEL”A [Yeshayahu Halevi Horowitz].

Our home was “soaked” in the love of Eretz Israel. My grandfather, my mother's father z'l was born in Eretz Israel and his family “went into exile” according to the order of the rabbis and doctors at the time. Since we were a family blessed with many children, we were divided into three generations: a. the adults studied in the Yeshiva in Kishinev; b. the middle generation studied in the secular high-school; c. the young generation studied in the Hebrew high-school. All had in common the religious-traditional home, where a Zionist atmosphere reigned.

I shall tell here only about those who studied at the Hebrew high-school.

For us the school was a Mikdash-me'at [a Temple] which embodied the love for Eretz Israel and the study of the Hebrew history and literature. The wide hall was decorated with the portraits of the writers and poets that we admired and loved: Ahad Ha'am, Bialik, Mendele, Tchernichovski, Shalom Aleichem and others. We kept the Jewish holidays. On Tu Bishvat [15-th in the month of Shevat] we sat in the big hall, outside was cold and the ground was covered by the white snow, and we were singing “In Eretz Israel the sun is shining and the vines are blooming.” With our spirit we saw not the cold in the hall and outside, but the sun and the warmth in Eretz Israel.

Bialik's poem Basade [In the Field] made a great impression. We read and reread the words: “Like a poor man I stand before the splendor of the growing grains,” “It was not my own drops of sweat that wetted the black earth;” “You are dear to me, my fields, since you remind me of my far brethren” etc. If we add to all that the influence of the Zionist youth movements in our town, we shall understand how deeply ingrained in our souls was the idea of fulfillment and Aliya.

In our young eyes, Akkerman was the end of the world. The train arrived from one direction only, and went back the same way. There was no continuation of the railway, except for some 20 kilometers in the direction of the sea. We felt cut off from the rest of Bessarabia and only weak echoes of what happened in other towns and villages, in the center of the country, reached us. The rumor about Zionist youth movements reached us through emissaries from the Holy Land and activists of the JNF, who came to our town rarely. In time, various youth movements were established as well, but they were not connected with the movements in the rest of the country or in other countries. Only during the summer of 1929 a branch of “Gordonia” was opened in Akkerman. One of the emissaries who visited in town convinced the young people to join. I was out of town that summer – I was in the resort town Budaki – and when I returned I found the Branch wonderfully organized, the heads being Shula Wolowitz z”l and Nissan Stambul (Amitay), may he live a long life. I joined immediately and was appointed secretary of the Branch shortly. The branch numbered several hundred members, in three sectors: the scouts, the awakening ones and the realizers. From the hours of the afternoon until late in the evening our Club was full of people, children and youth, who were guided by and listened to the adult “guides”. Hebrew speech and songs were heard to a distance.

In the spring of 1930 I asked to be sent for training in the “Hechalutz”, as was customary. But the delegates who in the winter of 1929 visited us tried to convince me to continue my work at the Branch, since I had a “Pioneer-Zionist” conscience and I had a good knowledge of Hebrew, and training at “Hechalutz” would not add much.

[Page 161]

I answered affirmatively and I remained, continuing being a guide at the Branch, and I was promised that my Aliya would not be delayed much and I will receive the much awaited “certificate” without my training in the “Hechalutz.”

Indeed, by the end of May 1930 I made Aliya. On 29 May I arrived by ship to Jaffa. As every new immigrant, I was very excited; I jumped in the little boat which took us to the shore. While doing that, I forgot in the ship a coat and a small suitcase, and the ship continued its journey to Alexandria in Egypt. After the famous “quarantine” we were taken to the “immigrants' house” on Aliya Street in Tel Aviv. While staying there, I had to make a decision about my next step in the country. Thoughts about continuing my studies were in my head (I was a graduate of the Hebrew School), or joining a kibbutz. I visited my two brothers in Zichron Yakov (my brother Noah had made Aliya in 1920 and my eldest brother z'l in 1926). I went to Jerusalem to check out the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus and to get information about the faculties that had just opened. After discussing the matter with students and with the secretary of the university and after hearing a lecture by David Yelin on the Hebrew poetry in Middle-Ages Spain, I decided that my life in this country would be only through full self-realization, which meant life on a kibbutz. By chance I was informed that at the Rechovot branch of the Gordonia movement the meeting of the General Council of Gordonia was taking place. I decided to go there, to meet personally the group and the leaders of the movement, and I was not disappointed. The meeting of the Council opened on Friday night and the participants were, as far as I remember: Chaim Arlozorov, Binyamin West, Gershon Chanoch, Yakov Zandberg (head of the Committee of Culture of the Histadrut), and of course Pinchas Levanon (Lubianiker) and others. The discussions were on a very high level and made a deep impression on me, a young man and a new immigrant. During Shabat I got to know the few members of the group and in particular a member of the Romanian Gordonia group, Dov Misha'eli (Mushinski z”l. He told me about the Hadera group, where I intended to join.

Indeed, at the end of the meeting, I finished all the formalities in the “immigrants' house” and toward evening we arrived by train in Hadera (I and Dov z”l) on the “Bussel Hill”, where The Gordonia A group (later relocated to Hulda) and the Gordonia D group (later to form Kibbutz Massada) were located. The two groups lived in one camp, and only the dining hall was divided by a wooden wall, three quarters of the area belonged to group A and one quarter was ours. One part of or camp was empty. To my question “where are the people” I received an unclear answer – something like “they will soon return”….

I checked out the camp, the barracks where I was to live, I met the members of the Gordonia A group but I didn't meet the members of my own group. Only at dinnertime I discovered the “great secret”: our group numbered only 5 members and at dinner we were only 4, since one was at Gan-Shmuel, where she participated in a course. One month after I arrived, the first baby was born: he was the first baby of the world Gordonia movement and was named Aharon David, after A.D. Gordon. I should mention that on the day I arrived in this country the British government issued the law against Aliya.

But little by little, during the next few months the Aliya gates opened and the number of our members began to grow; by the end of 1930 we were already 12 members.

On the development of the group, its longing to establish a kibbutz and the founding of our kibbutz in the Jordan valley we can read in the book Kevutzat Massada, published in 1962, 25 years from its foundation, edited by me.


Leib Stambul lighting memorial candles at a conference in Israel at the 40


[Pages 162-163]


Students of the Hebrew High-School in 1920

First row from right: Atiya Berg, Katia Gilbord, Vitia Rosenbaum, Shura Bronstein, Musia Frumin, Sviba Berkowitz, Soya Gelman, Utza Kogan, Sara Stulbrod, Baba Axelrod, Soya Brand, Nyusia Stambul, Bitelman, not identified
Second row from right to left: Binyamin Girshfeld, Musia Abramowitz, Boria Kaminker, Abramowitz, Yosef Tzeplin, Shura Wolwitz, Zamba Goldman, Riva Ingerleib, Gaber Chava, Kogan, three not identified, Nechama Kahalski, not identified, Yashke Weinstein, Malina Teuerman, not identified
Between the 2 rows, sitting: at right the kindergarten teacher Sarah Startz and at left the kindergarten teacher Shoshana Silberfarb
Third row from right to left: cleaning woman, David Malkin, Moshe Ingerleib, the teacher Sternshis, the teacher P. Stern Malmud, the principal of the school I. Berger, Asher Brodeski, Tzadok Tzukerman, the teacher of the Romanian language, Sokoloski, M.I. Berman (teacher of French), not identified, Manus Reuven, Eliezer Ingerleib, Baruch Gershfeld, Israel Manus, not identified, Finsburg, Reginowitz, not identified
Fourth row from right to left: the first two not identified, Ester Brodeski, not identified, Sioma Laker, Riva Roizman, Giora Gurewitz, Atiya Margalit, Milia Sherira, Chana Levin, A. Lis, Riva Kogan, Leah Berger, Shura Kesselman, Palikov, Bentchik Palikov, not identified, Eisman, Meir (Mira) Botoshanski, Korin
Fifth row from right to left: Goldman, not identified, Bunia Eisman, two not identified, Liuba Shmoish, Frima Kotchuk, not identified, Giora Roitman, Atiya Berg,, Chava Dorfman, Yente Weissberg, Yitzhak Teuerman, Elik Berg, Marusia Rabinowitz, Chana Dorfman, Byoma Brand, Leah Berkowitz
Sixth row from right to left: Chaim Brand, Bonia Eisman, not identified, Tzukerman (?), Mulia Rosental, Z. Kogan, not identified
Seventh row: Brodeskki, Grisha Rabinowitz, B. Chefetz, Idke Brand, Sheike Kushnir, Bosia Arbit, Milman, Zeplin, Shlomo Gecht, Zukerman, Izia Goldman, S. Minieli, not identified, Shmuel (the attendant of the school), Sinilnikov, Gordon, Sioma Britava


[Page 164]

A “Foreign” Girl in Akkerman

by Yehudit Karmi (Frenkel)

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

I was not born in Akkerman and I don't know whether I have the right to participate in this book, but I am connected by many strings to this town, where I spent some of the most beautiful years of my life, and maybe this can serve as my privilege…

I was born in the town Lyova on the River Prut, very far from Akkerman. But when I finished the local elementary school my family decided that the best and most suitable place to continue my studies would be the Hebrew High–School in Akkerman, which was famous as a national educational institution. No doubt that the fact that two of my uncles (the families Shapira and Frank) lived in Akkerman helped much to make that decision, but there is also no doubt that the good name of the “Tarbut” school played a decisive role.

In the fall of 1929 I packed my things and left little Lyova on my way to the “big city” Akkerman, which was indeed a big city compared to my town of birth. I shall not try to describe all my experiences connected with this drastic change and not my difficulties and pain of adjustment, since they are described in many books and are characteristic to any young girl who leaves the house of her parents and goes to live in a big city. My fate was not bad, since very soon I realized that my choice was good and the Tarbut high–school is kept in my memory to this day, as the institution that helped much in my education.

I remember my first day in school: young boys and girls, during recess running noisily around in the long corridor, full of young happiness and a great feeling of friendship. I was standing alone in a corner and did not take part. I did not know any of the students and everything looked strange to me and I had the feeling that I shall never adapt to what I saw around me. All of a sudden, I saw a familiar face, and a person approached me. I thought I was dreaming: it was my first teacher at the elementary school in Lyova, the teacher who taught me the Hebrew Alphabet and helped me learn to read. He was my first teacher,


The principal of the High School Yakov Berger and a group of teachers, 1928

[Page 167]

whom I loved and cherished, the teacher Gruzman, who had moved to Akkerman and was a teacher there. I shall never forget the meeting with him. This was my salvation in those difficult days, when I was so alone. My renewed connection with this teacher was not interrupted, until I finished high–school. He helped me find my in the new environs, Akkerman and the new school.

At that time, the high–school was the spiritual center of the Jews in general and the Jewish youth in particular. All roads led there and it was active during school hours and after them. Performances, sportive events, outings, sailing on the Liman and other activities of the movement – all were focused in the school, which was the home for all students, and more so for a lonely girl like me who had come from a foreign land. I was charmed by the atmosphere in school, by the good spirit of Yakov Berger that was felt everywhere and by the enthusiasm of the teachers. Our class was in particular united in spirit, most of the students were members of the Gordonia movement and worked hard on the preparations for Aliya. I do not have exact numbers, but I shall not exaggerate if I say that most of the students of my class did make Aliya and it is still possible to locate them in the kibbutzim Massada and Nir–Am, carrying on proudly the legacy of our former school.


A postcard from the teacher Gruzman to his students


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