Little Italy


DOM VOLANTE PLAQUE AND BOXING TROPHY

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Liverpool's Lord Mayor, Steve Rotheram is pictured with author Debra D'Annunzio and Paolo Grassi (Welsby Memorials) at the unveiling of the Dom Volante Plaque and Boxing Trophy within the Salisbury Boxing Club on Friday 17th April. Also pictured at the Salisbury Boxing club are Gerry and Kevin Thompson (who travelled up from Bristol), and Stella Muller who came over from Florida USA. Gerry, Kevin and Stella have Italian ancestry. Their Italian family history is featured in articles in this webpage.

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Riverside MP, Louise Ellman, and Italian Consul (for Merseyside) Nunzia Bertali joined with more than 200 people who attended morning mass at St Francis Xavier's Church on Sunday 29th March 2009, all attending in recognition of and respect for one of Liverpool's Little Italy's greats, Dom Volante. His name has been immortalized in a beautiful marble plaque kindly donated by Paolo Grassi of Welsby Memorials and a superb Boxing Trophy donated by Liverpool's Lord Mayor, Steve Rotheram. Both the plaque and trophy were blessed during the mass and can be seen at the Salisbury Amateur Boxing Club, Salisbury Street, Liverpool 3, as from 17th April 2009.

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Dear Scottie Press, For as long as I can remember I have listened to stories about 'the old neighbourhood', which became fondly known as, "Little Italy". Amongst these stories one name became very familiar…Dom Volante, and whilst researching my book Liverpool's Italian families it became clear the Italian people here in Liverpool still hold this man's memory close to their hearts. Dominic Volante, one of fourteen children born to Italian immigrant parents Maria Grazia D'Annunzio and Vincenzo Volante, quickly became a professional boxer and was lovingly known as 'The people's champion'. Dom will be immortalized in a plaque, the manufacture of which has been kindly donated by Paolo Grassi of Welsby Memorials and a boxing trophy donated by The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Steve Rotheram and by Ronnie Volante. Both the plaque and trophy will be blessed at a special mass at St Francis Xavier's Church, Langsdale Street on the 29th of March 2009 and unveiled at a later date within the Salisbury Boxing Club, Salisbury Street, Liverpool 3. The trophy will become an annual award for the club's competitive boxers. Debra D'Annunzio dmdanunz@hotmail.co.uk

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'Liverpool's Italian Families'
Presented to Athenaeum Club

Debra D'annunzio presented a copy of her new book 'Liverpool's Italian Families' to the world famous Library at Liverpool's Athenaeum Club (Church Alley) on Wednesday 17th December 2008. Debra is photographed with Athenaeum Club proprietors, Ken Pye and Hilary Gatenby. Debra said, it was both and honour and privilege for her book to become part of the Athenaeum Club's prestigious Library.


LIVERPOOL'S ITALIAN FAMILIES

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Dear Scottie Press, I would like to thank the people who have responded to recent requests for information regarding the Italian families who lived in and around the Gerard Street area. Since starting my research in May, I have made many friends and acquaintances and learned valuable new information about my own family in particular. Michael Valerio gave me a photograph of my great grandfather, Filipo D'Annunzio. This was taken when he was very young and is only the second photograph we have of him. I also learned my great, great grandfather Michele D'Annunzio had the first 'Welcoming House' in Gerard Street with seventeen lodgers from his own village of Atina back in Italy and within three years he had a live-in servant. This goes to show how determined the Italian families were to provide better lives for themselves and many soon prospered. Along with re-development often comes brutal change and although Gerard Gardens were long awaited and well deserved pristine homes for hundreds of residents many of the small businesses in Little Italy were demolished as part of the grand clearance. Having said this the majority of Little Italy remained in tact and life went on as before. However, the same cannot be said of the re-developments during the 1960's 1970's and 1980's when most of Scotland Road fell prey to the bulldozer. The end result were whole areas dedicated to new beautiful homes with front and back gardens, and although the people who live in them are still part of the local community communal life bears no resemblance to the Little Italy of the early 20th century. The churches, pubs, corner shops and tenements are long gone. The landings where many a happy hour was spent chatting and looking down at the busy goings-on in the gardens below are a thing of the past and never will return. We can never physically recapture this era but with publications such as the Scottie Press and local history books the reader can re-live the past and feel the same emotions their ancestors felt over a hundred years earlier. The pioneering migrants who made a mass exodus from Italy's southern villages such as Atina and Picinisco and the northern regions around Lucca and Genoa created a dynamic community in Liverpool. Hopefully my forth coming book which will be available before Christmas will give a complete understanding of the Italian culture and day to day life that went on in Liverpool's Little Italy. Debra D'Annunzio dmdanunz@hotmail.co.uk


GARDENS OF STONE

Paul Sudbury's book 'Gardens of Stone' chronicles the rise and fall of Liverpool's famous tenement block 'Gerard Gardens'. Many readers will know that Paul produced a highly acclaimed film entitled 'Gardens of Stone'. His book features details about the making of this film and includes photographs taken at the various venues where the film was shown and where Ged Fagan's scale model of Gerard Gardens was exhibited. The book has a suggested donation of £3 and all proceeds go to Alliance & Leicester's Charity of The Year 'Zoe's Place Baby Hospice'. For further details contact Paul at gardensofstone@fsmail.net


LITTLE ITALY'S TALENTED MUSICIANS

Amongst the names of prominent families associated with Liverpool's Little Italy and who made such a valuable contribution to the history, heritage and culture of the city of Liverpool are the Valerio Brothers. Their piano-accordion act was very popular and toured local Liverpool circuits. They also made several successful appearances at the London Palladium. We are grateful to Brian Murphy for sending this webpage some information about the Valerio Brothers and we welcome hearing from readers who may have additional information about the Valerio Brothers and other talented musicians who lived in Liverpool's Little Italy.

Dear Scottie Press, I came across your website while searching for Vaudeville Act. I found the Valerio Brothers listed on posters from the 1930's. My father (who will be 99 years old this October) was part of an act from America that toured England and Ireland at that time. Brian Murphy

The poster and flyer can be viewed on http://www.amesmurphy.org/MarcyBro.html


LITTLE ITALY SOUVENIR MUG

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We have now produced a Little Italy Souvenir Mug, which features the Plaque unveiled in 2002. This Mug (priced at £6) and other Commemorative Souvenirs marking the 20th Anniversary (1987-2007) of the demolition of Gerard Gardens (see below) can be purchased from Inscript Engraving, Victoria Street, Liverpool 2. Tel 0151 236 3326 or email inscript@fsmail.net

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THE ITALIAN CLUB

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A little piece of authentic Italian life has come to Liverpool's Bold Street. The Crolla family who originate from the village of Picinisco, 145 Kilometres (90 miles) south of Rome, are behind the new venture called 'The Italian Club'. The walls of The Italian Club are adorned with portraits of family relatives from years gone by. Owner Rasaria Crolla wants the people of Liverpool to experience the real taste of Italy. In addition to serving a selection of antipasta, hot dishes including oven baked pastas, and coffees, Rosaria is pictured alongside The Italian Club's ceiling high shelves, which are stacked with exclusively Italian produce, from De Cecco Pasta, biscuits and tomatoes to coffee, wine and a large range of oils and balsamic vinegars.

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Of interest to people entering The Italian Club or walking past are the two mosaics located at the two doorways. Readers of this webpage will be aware that we have tried to raise an awareness of the number of mosaics still viewable in Liverpool which we feel might have been crafted by the skilled mosaic men living in Liverpool's Little Italy area. We have been able to trace to origin of the design of the mosaics (as pictured) back to the early 1900s when the premises at 85 Bold Street was occupied by P & P Campbell, Perth Dye Works Ltd. We would be keen to hear from readers who may know of any other mosaics in buildings in Bold Street as part of efforts made by the Scottie Press to help with an exhibition about the History of Bold Street http://www.boldstreet.org.uk/blog/category/exhibition/


ITALIAN FAMILY HISTORY MEMORIES

We welcome hearing from website readers who may wish to provide this webpage with photos and or memories which record their Italian ancestry.

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Dear Scottie Press, I send some family photos picturing my grandfather and grandmother and their children. My grandfather is Giusephi Ventre's son. The small photo shows my grandmother and her brother and child. The old fashioned photo pictures Mrs Baccino and twins. The wedding certificate is that of my great grandfather and mother. The family group photo pictures my grandparents with their children. Angelina Wafer



ANGELO RAFFAELE VOLANTE

6 MARCH 1878 - JULY 1960

It's a pity in most cases we only get to know our Grand-parents when they are in their old age. How I would like to have known my Grand-dad Ralph in his younger days. Angelo Raffaele Volante was born in Prata Sannita in the province of Caserta, Italy on 6 March 1878 to parents Gaetano and Antonia, nee Iannota. In 1882 Gaetano decided to move his family to Liverpool, whether like most Italians at that time, on the first stage of immigrating to America, I don't know. However, they decided to stay and put down roots in Liverpool, where a thriving community of Italians had already established themselves. Life in Liverpool at the end of the nineteenth century could not have been easy for Gaetano, Antonia and their children Angelo, Vincenzo, Luigie and Louisa. One of the changes made by the children growing up in the hard streets of Liverpool was a change of names. Angelo dropped his first name and became simply Ralph whilst Vincenzo became James or just Jimmy for short. Gaetano insisted, when they could, his children must work to bring in money to support the family. I have been told Ralph had many varying jobs throughout his life-time, even going with his brother to America to start their own business. When that failed, they returned to England and took a variety of jobs. Gaetano finally established his own business in Gerard Street, hiring out "hurdy gurdies" to Italian immigrants to be played throughout the streets of Liverpool. He was famous for his home made piazzas that were so big they had to be baked in a German bread-maker's oven. Antonia used to run a boarding house just around the corner in Hunter Street and often cooked for visits Italian dignitaries staying at the luxurious Adelphi Hotel. During that time Ralph had several jobs including toy salesman, selling sweets in a local theatre dressed as a woman, model for art students in a university and translator for Italian sailors docking at Liverpool.

In December 1901 Ralph met and married Mary Guatelli, from another Italian family in the neighbourhood and, after many tragic infant fatalities that were all too common in those days, had a daughter Madeleine in 1907. Sadly Mary died in 1911 from a throat infection, which today might have been easily treatable but not so in those early days where health care was only available to those who could afford it. The following year Ralph married a young girl from an Irish family that had settled several years earlier in Liverpool, Margaret Murphy - my Nin. Together, they had several children, Catherine known as Kitty (my Mother), Ralph, Veronica (Aunty Honky, but that's another story) and Margaret (Aunty Peggy, to whom I am eternally grateful as the source of most of this tale). Life in those days was a lot harder than today with no National Health Service or State Benefits, but luckily the human mind is more readily able to recall the happier events, Aunty Peg remembers, how as a little girl, she and my mother regularly visited their Grand-mother at the boarding house, so much so that Ninny used to say "Our Kit is down with the Volantes that much she ought to take her bed down there". Saturday was a particular favourite day for the girls because those was when "some Jewish men" were allowed to use one of the rooms to play cards and they loved to scour the room afterwards looking for pennies and half-pennies that may have rolled off the table un-noticed. During the first World War of 1914-18, Ralph decided his duty was to enlist to protect his family, however when he applied to join the British Army he wad told that, because of where he was born, he would have to enlist in the Italian Army, at that time an ally of Britain. So, Ralph dutifully went off to offer his services to the Italian Army, where he was immediately arrested for not having done his "National Service". When the Italian Authorities finally accepted that he was now volunteering to complete his service, he was duly enrolled in the Army where his ability to speak both English and Italian was put to good use. One of his particular postings was with an Italian Captain who he helped with translating military instructions and orders.

Whilst at this posting he also helped the Captain's young son to learn how to speak and write in English and the by used to write letters back to Ralph's own little daughter Catherine in Liverpool. Unfortunately, none of the letters appear to have survived the passage of time. When the war finally ended, Ralph faced another problem, as the Authorities, when they demobbed him in Italy, would not provide him passage back home to England. He later remarked "It was lucky the first thing they took off me was my rifle as I would have shot the lot of them". Luckily for Ralph he met a group of merchant seamen in a bar in Naples who, having been told of his need to get back to his family in Liverpool, offered to take him to the Captain of their ship, which happened to be loading cargo destined for England. The Captain also took pity on Ralph but explained that his was a cargo ship, which could not take passengers but he was prepared to sign Ralph on as a member of the crew if he was prepared to "work his passage". Ralph readily agreed to this arrangement and joined the ship, soon to sail to England, as a crewman. During the voyage home to England, Ralph's fellow crewmen generously donated articles of clothing more suitable to the work that he would be expected to do onboard ship. Thus a family joke was born. "He was the only person to leave England as a soldier and return as a sailor". Back home in Liverpool, Ralph carried on his role as a family man, but with no trade behind him, he was obliged to earn money to support his family where-ever and when-ever he could. One of the jobs he particularly enjoyed was acting as a guide and interpreter to the Italian sailors arriving in Liverpool docks. Showing the sailors around Liverpool often included trios to the large department stores where Ralph would help them buy things that were not readily available back home in Italy. At about this time Ralph's wife gave birth to another daughter, which was named Margaret after her mother. Aunty Peg tells us that, when she was born, she was not a particularly health baby and was often susceptible to many of the childhood illnesses that were prevalent about that time. On one such occasion, the hospital advised there was nothing more they could do and they didn't expect her to survive. Despite there being little food in the house, Ninny insisted on taking her home to be with family. When Ralph, later that day, realised the desperateness of the situation, he went out to "call in some favours", returning that evening with food for the family, food and medicine for the baby, as well as some money.

Such was the resilience of the man that Margaret was able to prove the hospital wrong by not only overcoming her illnesses but also to grow stronger with the love of her family around her. Years come and go, Ralph and his family experienced good, bad, happy and sad times and we are all left with memories of that time. My memory is of an old, but smartly dressed man visiting us where we lived in Horfield, Bristol. During those old summers that always seemed to be warmer and sunnier, Ralph would take me around the garden picking tender, young dandelion leaves, which, he said, when dressed with olive oil and vinegar made the best green salad. He also said it was good table manners to eat meat on the bone with fingers rather than a knife and fork, but more importantly he taught me , much to Ninny's annoyance, to swear in Italian. Ralph died July 1960, a year after the death of his oldest daughter Catherine on 26 July 1959. Some say it was the early death of his beloved daughter that broke the old man's heart, who can say. Angelo Raffaele Volante, floor-layer, toy salesman, guide, interpreter, model, soldier, sailor, son, husband, father, to me was just GRAND-DAD. Gerard Thompson


LUNCH WITH THE AUTHORS AT VIA VENETO

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We thank Steve Tierney (Owner - Via Veneto Ristorante, Old Hall Street) and staff for hosting a Lunch With The Authors event on Fri 9th Feb. This lunchtime gathering (see pictures above) was arranged and funded by the Vauxhall History & Heritage Group to seek ways by which more support can be given to local authors and publishers. Attending this lunch was local author Terry Cooke who wrote the very successful 'Little Italy' book, which is featured on this web page.

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Terry (Chairman of Vauxhall History & Heritage Group) is photographed with Louise Ellman MP who attended the Lunch and who expressed her pleasure at seeing an opportunity given to local authors and publishers to meet and enjoy talking about their work. Louise will offer her support to further the aims of the lunchtime gathering being very mindful of the value that local authors and publishers can give to the city of Liverpool, especially in 2007 (800th Birthday of the City of Liverpool) and in 2008 when Liverpool celebrates its status as European Capital of Culture. Louise is also pictured in lunch-time conversation with David Charters (Features Journalist - Liverpool Daily Post) who is aiding the intentions of the Lunch With The Authors by featuring an article about the event in the daily newspaper.


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My name is Elva and I am the grand daughter of Francisco Antonio Monti and Ermalinda Politi who came to England from Lacco Ameno, Ischia in 1896 and settled in Liverpool. They had 13 children. Francisco Antonio had a grocers/ earthenware shop on the corner of Fulford Street and Great Homer Street until it was bombed. Francisco's brother Salvatore also came to England and married Mary Devaney and they had triplets who unfortunately died. Mary emigrated to Canada with her daughter after the early death of Salvatore and her descendants now live in New York. Francisco's sons Manny, Charlie, Willie, & Victor all worked in Terrazzo for many years before the war. All but one member of the family (Ethel) has died but a lot of their children still live in Liverpool. Some of them were born in Gerard Street and my dad (Manny Monti) always used to tell me that he had a plaque erected over the place he was born. My sister Linda married Albert Riccio. Riccio was another Liverpool Italian family who owned an ice cream parlour. When I was a child I used to go to Capaldi's shop and go upstairs and Angelina Capaldi and my Mum would talk for ages while my sisters Linda, Dominica and I played with the lads Peter Capaldi lived in Bethnal Green, London and we also used to visit them. Mark Arcari was another family friend, they had an ice cream factory before the war and later a taxi service. My mother was the daughter of Michael Angelo Ferri who was the one-man band .He was a busker and played outside the cinemas and along the streets. During the war my Mum used to do her shopping at Imundi's. It was always boarded up but he always managed to get her pasta and conserve .and other Italian goodies My Mum also used to have billetters - they were Italian sailors and Irish navies My sister went to the Italian school before the war but it must have closed down because of the war. The photographs show; Francisco Antonio's alien's record book from 1924, Emmanuel Monti, Fransico Antonio Monti in 1937 and Manny and Willie Monti and other workers in terrazzo.

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PROMOTING LIVERPOOL'S ITALIAN HERITAGE

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Liverpool's city hall (town hall), one of the oldest historical buildings in the City of Liverpool, is home to the City's Lord Mayor. The present city hall is the third to have been built on or near the current site. The first city hall was built in 1515, the second one in 1673. Today's city hall, first conceived in 1748 and completed in 1754, was re-built between 1795 and 1820. The dome, which is topped by the Roman goddess Minerva, was erected in 1802 The dome of the city hall is faced by four clocks, which are flanked by lions and unicorns. Minerva, on top of the dome, represents the Roman goddess of wisdom and protector of cities. Designed by sculptor John Charles Felix Rossi, Minerva is made of terracotta and covered In 87,000 square inches of gold leaf. Rossi was born in Nottingham, his father being an Italian doctor. He studied sculpture under Locatelli, worked at the Derby China works, briefly for Vulliamy, then for the Coade Manufactory. In 1781 he became a student at the Royal Academy Schools, exhibiting there for the first time in the following year, and on winning a travelling scholarship, spent three years in Rome. After his return to London, he formed a partnership with a mason-sculptor called J. Bingley, and drawing on his early training in terra cotta, made a variety of terra cotta and stone statues.

With Liverpool Town Hall having this most prestigious association with Italy it has been suggested that the Scouse-Italian Reunion Night 2007 could be held at this famous Liverpool landmark. The Town Hall can accommodate up to 270 guests in its various rooms. The town Hall is one of Liverpool's premier venues for Weddings, Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Conferences/meetings, exhibitions etc. We will have updated news on this idea in the new year and any thoughts etc that readers may have.

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It has also been suggested that the former Pontack Pub in Christian Street is converted into a Liverpool-Italian Heritage Centre. This building was chose to site the replacement Little Italy Plaque in 2005. The original plaque sited on the corner of Gerard Street and Christian Street and unveiled in 2002 was stolen in 2004. The building was occupied in 2005 for business offices but has become vacant in the last month.

We have already received messages in suport of this idea and we welcome hearing from readers who may have suggestions and ideas as to how to create a Liverpool-Italian Heritage Centre that could attract visitors and have a sustainable future.

Dear Scottie Press, It is a beautiful building and would be a great Italian Cultural Centre! Please let me know if I may help. Please keep me posted. Professor Philip DiNovo

Dear Scottie Press, A focal point to highlight Liverpool/Italian links and history is a great idea. It will be interesting to see what the new owner's intentions are. I feel that so many Liverpool people are unaware of their own Italian background and what an impact their ancestors had upon the city they live in today. Keep me informed. Any way I can help let me know. Tony Stapleton (Valerio).

Dear Scottie Press, I think it would be a good idea to use the building as an Italian, History or Heritage centre considering the growing interest in Liverpool`s Culture and History not only from visitors, but from the city`s residents themselves. As it is near the city centre it is also convenient to visit. I think they key is to involve as many as the organisations you list and to also include the term "Resource Centre" that could be of use to schools, researchers etc as if funding is required these are the things they are more likely to help finance. Please let me know of any developments as this is the sort of Heritage/Cultural project the LHF may be able to help with or a least raise awareness of as we have all the city councillors and a few MP`s on our mailing list. Please keep me updated on any developments or if I can be of help. Rob Ainsworth

Dear Scottie Press, I must admit that the idea of a Liverpool/Italian Heritage centre sounds wonderful. Having just looked at the picture of the old Pontack pub in Christian St on the Scottie Press website, I think that splendid building would make a really excellent Liverpool-Italian Heritage centre. Keeping the centre in the area where the early Italian immigrants lived will also add something special when visitors to the area are tracing their ancestors in the actual area where they lived and worked and made new lives for themselves and their families. If it was possible to have all the old records of the Italian families in the same place it would make it so much easier when looking for our Italian ancestors...sometimes you just seems to come to a dead end when researching but if all the information people had gathered was under the same roof maybe there would be less of those dead ends. I would certainly like to see this project up and running and will be willing to help in any way that I can. Carol Moretta Rigg.

Dear Scottie Press, Like most of your ideas this is an excellent idea but it would also need finance; the Pontack pub is of historic significance for Little Italy and therefore Liverpool's history but probably getting sustainable use of St Mary of the Angels was the most important achievement needed in that area. At the same time your tireless promotion, along with supporters, of tourism in Vauxhall and the inner city areas will I think reap rewards as this is getting more and more recognition. It often takes time to notice the impact, but along with the virtual interest in and support for Liverpool generated by the Scottie Press website I think putting the tourism in Vauxhall on the map will lead to interest growing and growing. That will eventually lead to more people visiting and more investment. Councillor Kiron Reid Assistant Executive Member - Special Initiatives

Dear Scottie Press, I think that would be a great idea. One little point of interest, many years ago my father had the case to buy the Pontack Pub in Christian Street but turned it down. He also lived in Gerard Street as a young boy but was of English decent. I'll forward you a story of my Grandfather Angelo Raffeale Volante. Gerry Thompson

Dear Scottie Press, Liverpool Town Hall is situated at heart the commercial centre of Liverpool. Around it most of the commercial activity was focussed during the 19th century period of exceptional prosperity and expansion. The principal streets are Castle Street, Water Street, Old Hall Street, Dale Street and Victoria Street. These streets contained the most important commercial premises. The streetscape of the area is exceptional, with the spectacular grandeur of its architecture and monuments still in evidence and displaying how the architecture of the Italian Renaissance appealed to 19th century Liverpool bankers and industrialist. I applaud your efforts to promote Liverpool's Italian Heritage and wish you every success. Steve Tierney (Via Veneto Ristorante, Old Hall Street)

Dear Scottie Press, I think that the idea of a cultural centre is great - and we would support it in principal. However, the problem of location is always a difficulty. We recently had one of the regular sight seeing visits from the Victorian Society who, as usual, were bowled-over by SFX. Several of them said that one of the problems in Liverpool is that people will not travel outside a very small area to see anything - including SFX. All good wishes. Brother Ken Vance (SFX Church)



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