Lyudmilla Alexeeva, Moscow, May 26, 2008
Interviewer — Metta Spencer
Interpreter — Ignat Kalinin
Her lovely apartment is in the Arbat. She had had hip surgery but was recovering well.
LA: I prefer to have him (Ignat) stay and translate for me. It would be more accurate. My English is not so good. I am glad that many young people in my country speak English. I didn’t start learning until I was in my fifties. I didn’t take any courses. I listened to TV and the people around me. For that reason, when my husband explained it, he said, “You speak Russian with English words.” I study the verbs, so I am not sure every time…
MS: My friend Olga Medvedkova, who was a member of the Group for Trust many years ago, is in Moscow now. She’s a professor of Geography in Ohio and has brought some students to hear presentations. She asked me to give a talk this morning. One thing I notice about Olga is her way of handling tenses in English. She often says, ‘I been doing this.” You can say I have been doing this, but she uses it for present, past – it will serve for many things. I thought it was a very good solution to avoid having to memorize tenses for verbs.
LA: For the first few months in America, after I immigrated there, I found it hard to answer such as simple question as “How are you?” I don’t know what to say. “Thank You?” “How are you?” I didn’t know what to say in reply.
MS: In Russian, what do people say?
LA: We have no special form. We may say “ Priviet, or Kagdilla (How’s your business?) or even “Hi, Zdrastvustya!” And we have no special asnwer. In English I should say “Fine, thank you!” But I didn’t know because not every time was I fine, but I should say “fine.” This etiquette!
MS: Yes, I’ve seen that happen sometimes. They ask you when you’re in terrible pain or something. You can’t really be truthful. You say you migrated to the US. I don’t know about that. Tell me when you moved.
LA: I was very active in the human rights movement in Soviet times. It was dangerous at that time. I was one of the founders of the Moscow Helsinki Group. It was a crime at that time and several people were arrested for that reason. The group decided I should be the representative of the group abroad – in America especially because at that time Carter was the president. He was especially concerned about human rights and supported the movement. I spent 13 years in emigration. It’s a shame to say because after 13 years, my English should be brilliant. But I explain again, I emigrated after my fifties, and the second thing, I had no time to take courses because I was a representative of the Moscow Helsinki Group. I didn’t know the people, I didn’t know the language, I had no links, I had nothing. Being a representative was difficult enough and I had no time for lessons.
MS: People are always apologizing for not speaking good English. I have been here many times and I don’t know a word of Russian.
LA: I know. Russian is a very difficult language for English people to learn. I know it because it’s the same for Russians to speak English. If people are from France, they speak English very easily because many words are close. Even German is closer than Russian.
MS: But when I am on the street, if I sound out the spelling, I can usually figure out what the word means. Like Sport. Or Restaurant. Many, many words are the same. But when somebody says those words, I don’t understand them.
LA: Of course. Once I started as a volunteer to teach American students Russian. And in my first class I explained that we have some sounds that you don’t have in English, such as sha! And we have the phrase “Sheda casha pisha nasha.” They said, “Oh my god.” You have, for example, one word green. But we have four words. And after that, I had less and less students at each class. It finished very soon.
MS: One of my friends was a sociologist in Africa who lived with the Bushmen. There are four clicks that you must put into the words. Where did you live in the United States?
LA: Two years in West Virginia because my husband was a mathematician and he had a position in Bethany College in West Virginia. At this time I left Bethany. Almost half time I was not with my husband because almost half time I was in Washington, New York, or Europe. After that we lived close to Washington. I emigrated in 1977, and I reached America in ___.
MS: Did you have support or interest from the White House when Carter was the president?
LA: Yes. Not only when Carter was president but even when Reagan was president. I was very surprised when Reagan won the election because during the campaign he had criticized Carter for [involvement?] with human rights. But when he came to the presidency, he continued – at least toward USSR, he continued Carter’s policy in defence of human rights. But only toward USSR. Because it was very convenient for him to criticize the USSR.
MS: “The evil empire” – a big political stick.
LA. Of course the Democrats are closer to my heart but the Reagan Administration was much more effective than the Carter, because the Reagan administration was more effective politicians. They worked brilliantly to support us.
MS. What kind of support did they give you?
LA: First of all, Reagan dealt with the Soviets to exchange a Soviet spy for Yuri Orlov, who arrived in USA in October of 1986. Approximately at that time the Vienna conference of Helsinki countries took place. Usually there were officials there but (I) and Yury Orlov were included as guests in the group of the USA. I was a US citizen at that time but Orlov was not, and we were guests and attended the conference and had the possibility to meet members of the Soviet delegation. We attended when Shevardnadze, who was the Soviet minister of foreign affairs, proposed to take the next Helsinki conference, on the human rights dimension, in Moscow. There was laughter about this because there were prisoners at that time and nobody could leave without special permission and so on, but Orlov and I decided it was a good chance to demand changes in human rights problems and we arranged with the American Helsinki Group to support Shevardnadze’s proposal under the following conditions: to release all political prisoners; to create an atmosphere in Moscow surrounding this conference as it is in any free country – everybody may come and observe the situation, and, third, to permit people who were concerned to visit this conference ________ and fourth, to stop jamming foreign radio stations. And American Helsinki Group supported us and we spoke in the State Department several times about it and in one month or so our efforts in such directions, the American delegation sent their proposal to the Soviet Union. It was absolutely what we said. It was the first time in my life when I saw as in a free country ordinary persons may enter such an important situation as there, and the relationship between America and Soviet Union.
MS: They accepted your proposals?
LA: Yeah. And they said the next one will be in Copenhagen and the second conference will be in Moscow because it takes time for us to fulfill all your demands. And they fulfilled it! They fulfilled it!. It was so smart because it was good pace, to push them to release the political prisoners. The first time I received permission to visit my country because, even before this conference, had place in Sept. 1991. I received permission to visit Moscow in 1990 because the president of the American Helsinki Group, he visited Shevardnadze in Moscow and said if you would like to have support of American democratic society to hold conference in Moscow, you should permit the Moscow Helsinki Group to organize its annual conference in Moscow, and we would like to see the atmosphere around this conference. Then we will decide whether we will support the conference the next year. And Shevardnadze said “Okay, we will do all that you want.” And he said “And Alexeeva should be able to attend this conference.” And Shevardnadze said, “No problem.” I thought maybe it was only one time permission to attend a conference but after that they crossed my name off their black list and after that I attended things in my country whenever I wanted. I was born in this country, and in 1993 I returned back and restored my citizenship here. And now I am happy because I live in my own country.
MS: Tell me, this conference that you attended here, was it the one that was chaired by Fyodor Burlatsky?
LA: No, no, no. It’s a special conversation about Fyodor Burlatsky. Just after Gorbachev’s nomination as the head of the state, the general secretary of CP, in the department of education of the communist party, they decided to create a new Helsinki Group because the real Helsinki Group, which was founded in 1976, a majority of this group were in camps, or jail or emigration. They decided to form a new Helsinki Group, to invite to this group prominent writers, artists, and so on and propose the West people to deal with this group. And Burlatsky headed this group.
MS: So Burlatsky was heading an organized competitor to the real thing?
LA: Yes. To take people’s eyes away from the real group. And they turned to the American Helsinki Group and proposed that they meet. I was consultant of the American Helsinki Group. They asked me what to do – refuse? I said, no no no no, because it was 1985 and we had so many many Helsinki Group members from Georgia, Ukraine, etc and it was my first aim to release these people. I said, “If they propose to you to meet with this group, you should use the chance. It is much more important to release these people than to choose with whom they should speak. And they decided to meet in Paris. They said, you should go with us because we are not sure every time that we will understand what their proposals mean. They were right. And Burlatsky came to Paris and I was there to meet this group.
MS: Which meeting was first, yours with Shevardnadze, or this meeting?
LA: It was before. The meeting with Shevardnadze was in 1986.
MS: Burlatsky’s was first?
MS: Because I used to know Burlatsky and he talked about this meeting.
LA: It’s very interesting because I knew Burlatsky for many years and always considered him an honest man. But that test was not an honest one. I still think maybe it was a mistake, maybe it was his weakness. I would like to think it was his mistake. But all people were jailed. When we spoke to members of this group, he said to Americans, “Why would you like to deal with this group? Nobody knows these people who are now in jail. I represent a group of famous writers and other public figures. Why would you want to deal with them instead of my group?” The Americans said, “Excuse us but we don’t know those famous writers. This is the group that we know.”
It was very sad to speak with this group. I kept silent the whole day because I am only a consultant. I would like to listen to what they say and correct my American friends’ mistakes. I wasn’t involved in the conversation. But they spoke the whole day. Maybe they forgot about me because I didn’t speak. After they talked all day and then the Russians went away and closed the door, the Americans began laughing but I was crying because it was my country. The Americans didn’t know these writers, but I knew them. And I respected them, including Fyodor Burlatsky. And it was shame! Because we proposed them. So these people said “Oh, these people. This one is a criminal. You don’t know but we know he’s a criminal.” And after a whole day of discussion, we realized that they did not want to help to release a single political prisoner! But it was our only aim, our only reason for speaking with them. But it was shame because I respected all those people, including ____. I remember his novel. When I was young I respected this writer very much and I saw him in person for the first time. I would like to think it was a mistake of Mr. Burlatsky’s. Because he was a very respected person.
MS: This is not something I need to write about in my book.
LA: If you don’t want to write about it, okay, because I don’t want to speak bad things about live and not alive people. I don’t like saying it but if you ask me, I cannot lie to you.
MS: I am not going to add much to the book I have. I am just trying to make corrections. I used to be a friend of Fyodor Burlatsky. He has stayed in my home with me for a month at one time, and I was trying to assist him by taking his daughter to live with me. So I knew him and I have a long interview with him about this very situation. His description of it doesn’t fit very well with yours. It disturbs me. It is not necesssary so I will avoid the whole thing in my book. I’m glad you told me, but at the same time it makes me sad.
By the way, I also interviewed Yuri Orlov once. He was in Toronto and I interviewed him for the book and for my magazine. I will send you copies of my magazine. It must have been 15 years ago.
LA: He lives in Ithaca, New York. He is a professor at Cornell University. He’s a physicist. It’s a serious dilemma in his life. He loves being a scientist professor and he’s very concerned about human rights problems. For me it wasn’t a dilemma because I am a historian and it’s so easy to add this to my everyday business (if you take business without profit). But for him it’s a dilemma. If he works on human rights he should return to Russia because our problems are here but here he cannot effectively make his studies here because there is no equipment. So he prefers science. We speak often by telephone. We see each other, not every year but often enough because he comes to Russia despite his age. He’s 83 years old. I know it’s difficult for him to come to Russia and back but even this year we will see each other, not in Moscow, but in Kiev because he will have some scientific report in Europe and after that he will come to Kiev because we will have a big meeting there on human rights. I will go there too because it will be a meeting of human rights activists from all countries of the former Soviet Union, not only from Russia. It will be a big event for us. I’ll be preparing very actively. My executive director, program director, _____ are more in Ukraine and Belarus and states around Russia than in Russia. But Russia is preparing this meeting. s
Yuri Orlov is an excellent person. They say that there is no person without flaws. That’s not true. I’ve known Yuri Orlov since 1973 and he is a person without any flaws.
MS: I really appreciate hearing that. I liked him so much when I met him.
LA: I don’t know any such other person. I am so happy that we worked together. I am very proud that I can say he is my friend. He says the same about me.
MS: You both went to the US at the same time and you worked together to some extent when you lived there?
LA: He was arrested on February 10, 1977. Twelve days later I left the Soviet Union. My first aim was to release political prisoners, including Yuri Orlov.
MS: When was he released?
LA. In 1986. He spent seven years in camp. Almost three years in exile in the Far East in terrible conditions. In October 1986, he was released from exile. Without explaining anything to him, they took him to Moscow, then changed planes and took him to the US.
MS: I knew some of this history but I didn’t remember when. This is much later than I realized.
LA: He was released in 1986. It means – I don’t know when you met him.
MS: It must have been only 3 or 4 years later that I met him. I have been coming to Russia many times, but for several years I couldn’t come. I had my hips replaced. It’s now been eleven years since I was here last. So much has happened!
LA: You are a brave woman to make such a trip.
MS: Not so much me. It is important what I was trying to do. I was writing a book about the transition to democracy. There’s no democracy here, so I am not sure what to write.
LA: It’s our way to democracy. It’s a long way, of course because we were a a totalitarian country for three generations. It’s not so easy to forget it, you know. For Germany, for example, it was much easier because it was only twelve years. But we were a totalitarian country more than 70 years. That’s the principal difference you know, three generations. We forgot the free way to live. That’s the first reason. The second reason why it’s so difficult for us to reach real democracy is the tragic history of our country. Remember the first world war, revolution, civil war, Stalin’s terror, industrialization in Stalin’s time, the Second World War, In the Second World War we lost 26 million people. That’s the official figure; I would believe it’s much more. If you account how many people we lost during these wars and Stalin’s terror, it’s impossible to account. And now we are another nation than we were before the First World War. We cannot be compared to nations who had no such tragic histories. No one country in Europe had such an experience. America had no such experience. And we are another country. We have democratic problems because those who were the best people were destroyed during the terror, during the wars, and so on. Those who were a bit defective, those who tried to hide away from the front lines…. Even I remember from my childhood the people before the terror and the Second World War. Ot’s changed __
MS: The quality of the people around you?
LA: Entirely changed. They are more vulnerable to fear now. Of course! Of course! It’s an instinct to be afraid of something dangerous. In Soviet time just before my emigration I had a conversation with a very good psychiatrist and he explained to me why they used psychiatric hospitals against dissidents. It was a private conversation. For that reason, he was sincere. He said that dissidents are people with wrong psyches inside them because they don’t know what to be afraid of. A child knows if he sticks his hands into the stove, he will be burned. But dissidents, when they understand that they are actually in danger, they keep on doing this. It means that they are mentally ill.
I asked him, does this mean that I’m not mentally well? He replied that, no, you’re mentally well. But you’re a very rare case. But such things are not only because he is a psychiatrist. The majority of people around us said the same thing. They said, it’s normal for us to be afraid. It is normal in the modern world.
And not only that. Many features in our characters were were formed by our tragic history. Not all people, of course. With such a history as ours, we have a pretty good proportion of normal people, brave people. It should be much less. We decided to reach democracy. It’s a heroic decision, I would say. And we will be a democratic country but we cannot do it so quickly. We cannot! Be more patient!
MS: I should be more patient?
LA: Yeah. And I believe we need ten, fifteen years. In fifteen years, I believe we will reach democracy. Because, what does democracy mean? When people won’t permit their rulers to abuse their power. We should arrive at such a society but it’s impossible to make it quickly. I would say we’ve come quite a distance since the end of the eighties to this time. It’s the most difficult part of the journey because the first steps are always the most difficult steps. We’ve made a lot of achievements. People now are very different from those in the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, people couldn’t do anything for themselves. Either the state did something for the people or it wasn’t done at all. For example, I would like to have a good apartment. If the state doesn’t give it to me, I could not have it. It was impossible.
We lived in such a way for three generations. And when the Soviet Union was crushed, we were like kids. We didn’t know how to do anything. We had to learn to be grown-up people in a very cruel way because the state forgot about us. The state crushed our economy and our social system, and nobody helped people in this country. Those who couldn’t learn to do things by themselves, those who couldn’t pass the transition, they just died. That is why we have the demographic problem right now. People who are alive now are mature people. It’s a different people from the Soviet Union. In the polls two years ago the question was asked, “Do you hope for the state to help you?” Sixty-seven percent replied that they do not hope for the state to help them. And 25 percent actually said that the state sets disabilities for them. It’s another people! It’s the most difficult step for them to recognize that they should depend on themselves without thinking of help from the state to organize their lives, to help their families. Not to think about state help. Of course, we have now bandit capitalism. We have probably passed that stage, though. Being an historian, I can see that all the stages that took dozens of years, or centuries, in Europe and America, we are passing through in a few years. Now we have turned from bandit capitalism to state capitalism. Of course it’s not democracy. But we will pass to other stages too—quickly. Believe me.
Because in parallel with this political development, we have the development of civil society. It’s very difficult to observe outside our country. Even in our country it is difficult to see because no TV, no mass media, show it or writes about it. But this process is going on. For that reason, I never try to be a deputy or an official – never! – because this is the most important area where we should work to reach democracy: civil society. Because even if we have an angel as a president, he cannot organize democracy in this society if civil society is not ready for it.
MS: I can see that.
LA: I saw it in America. Elected officials in America are much more polite. In America if by chance some evil wizard were to freeze all the civil organizations in the US for one year, every bureaucrat or public official would be – Why are they so polite to ordinary people? Because they cannot do it any other way. They know they would lose their position if they spoke in the way that our bureaucrats do. For that reason, that’s the only way to reach democracy – through civil society.
MS: It seems to me there’s another factor that you’re not mentioning: freedom of the press. If you don’t have good information –
LA: It’s very difficult, yes.
MS: You have portrayed to me a society that’s evolving in a good direction. But I see that the press is getting worse off. If information is not going to be available, I don’t know how you expect there to be such a pleasant evolution toward a more democratic country.
LA: It’s very difficult, of course. But in the Soviet Union we had no free press, absolutely. Only so-called samizdat (you know what that is) and foreign radio stations who broadcast into the Soviet Union. And when under Gorbachev the censorship was loosened, no one can say where they came from, but a lot of journalists appeared who knew how to use a free press, who wanted to do it, and who actually did it. They helped very much to push our society from totalitarianism. How did they appear, these journalists? But now we have not absolute censorship. We have some magazines, some newspapers — I read such issues – and we have Internet. We have foreign television. It’s more than enough. [We are interrupted here by a phone call.]
That was the Gazeta. They want to interview me. So it’s not complete censorship. For the majority it’s enough information. It’s especially easy now for our completely free mass media (only a small part of this mass media is completely free), it’s much easier to send information that is needed because this generation had free information during the nineties. So it’s another people now! Many more people today want to have free information – especially because now they need to organize their own lives themselves, so they need more information than from the TV. They recognize this too. So for that reason, the process of building up civil society is going at a very quick pace. Because of the TV you can [or can ‘t?] see it very clearly if you don’t participate in the process. But I do participate in the process, so I see that it is going very quickly until the state tries to suppress it. They cannot suppress it. They can do nothing! It is difficult to explain to Americans, but in Soviet times, you could not come to me and speak as we are doing now. And I could not have interrupted my speech by speaking with my colleague from Kazan, a journalist from New Gazeta, who wants to interview me. And now when I go to meet the chief of the Soviet Russian department, it’s another life. We will reach democracy, believe me! I will not live to see it, but it doesn’t matter. Every man will not live to see something.
MS: May I say how puzzled I am? When you were a dissident you were putting your hand into the fire. In spite of the fact that you knew it would burn, you did it anyway. And now it is easier – much easier – and you don’t sound like a dissident to me.
LA: I’m not a dissident now because we have a good constitution and I defend our constitution. I would say that I support our state because I support our constitution. And I would say the dissidents are those who violate our constitution.
MS: Who are they?
LA: Our officials, including our president. I don’t know about our new president because he has had not enough time to be evaluated, but I suspect he knew about it.
MS: You sound more like a dissident when you say that the people who are dissidents are the government.
MS: What do you do now about those people? Let’s see if we see it the same way. My understanding is that about fifteen years ago there was an opportunity for real democracy. And over time, with Yeltsin, with Putin, the government has become authoritarian. And if there was a time to be a dissident against the government, I would think that this would be a good time now. But that doesn’t sound like what you are seeing.
LA: Yeah, that’s right. But we work under new conditions. We have a new constitution. And now I can speak louder every time when our president violates the constitution by his decree, by a new law, and so on. I speak loudly. I say, “Mr. President, you are violating the constitution.” In Soviet times I couldn’t say that because we had no such constitution. It’s a very important base for us. He can’t answer us sincerely because he KNOWS he is violating the constitution. We want him to fulfill the constitution. It’s another situation! We are working under absolutely another condition.
I am a member of the presidential council for human rights. He cannot tell me “Get out of my council.” Why? It would be shameful. Everybody knows it is in the constitution. And i have a bigger moral weight, according to them. It is recognized even by state officials. It’s very interesting. Now I may call to everybody. He doesn’t do what I want him to do but he cannot refuse to speak with me. Instead, he says [she mocks Putin’s simpering voice] “Oh, Ludmilla Mikhailovna, okay, okay. It’s so nice you called me,“ and so on. It doesn’t make a real difference because even if they listen to me they don’t do what I say, but they cannot ignore me. Because they know! For Soviet officials, it was different, but for these officials, they violate the constitution in their own interests, and they will continue to do so, but they know it is not right! Even THEIR mentality has changed. It means that our civil society has a chance to be mature in – historically, it’s not so long, ten or fifteen years. It’s long in terms of my age, but not in history.
MS: Yes, I can see that.
IGNAT ASKS QUESTION in RUSSIAN
LA: First, it’s very important to know how to define social problems. It’s not so much so for Americans – it’s usual for Americans – but for us it’s new. Political parties are weak in our country because we have no political culture. It’s more difficult to defend interests, like automobile owners or owners of apartments, and so on. For that reason, we have mass social movements. They are very successful. Because they are mass, they can really push the government and they are successful now, but political parties are not successful and they have no modern political culture, including their leaders, unfortunately. Of course, normal civil society cannot exist without political parties and this is a problem for us. But it is going on. The first and the second—maybe we will have a civil society closer to Americans than to Europeans because in America the Republican and Democratic parties are mechanisms for elections and in everyday life, there are many, many non-political organizations that help people in social, cultural, and political ways. The same will be in our country. We have more tendency for non-political civil activity than for pure political activity. For that reason, I work more with social movements than with political parties. [She takes a phone call here.]
Of course, there are political parties too. This [last phone call] was from Yabloko. But they have no real mass of people. It’s a small organization now that represents almost no one.
MS: I spoke with Carl Gershman the other night. He’s the head of NED. I was tallking to him about the fact that the Russian government has forbidden foreign funds to come to help groups that are doing political work. I don’t understand that, How do you feel about that.
LA: Under our law, they cannot give money to political parties.
MS: No, of course not – not to political parties. I think any government would prohibit that. But there are other kinds of activities that could be funded. What would be your idea of what is appropriate for foreign funders to give money to? I would agree that certainly not to political parties.
LA: Of course, not to political parties. They do have money from abroad, but only secretly. I know it. But as to my organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group. We are the oldest human rights organization in Russia. We are experienced and well known, and for that reason we work with the whole spectrum of human rights. For me, of course, I am more interested in civil and political rights than in social rights.
And I support this social movement because I believe that in the future if people organize to defend their social interests, after that they may be – There’s a good example that you can follow. They were created three years ago to defend the right to drive right-hand drive cars from England or Japan – mostly from Japan because we have a lot of those cars in the Far East. They are easy to import. The car owners won that right agains the government, which wanted to abolish cars of that sort. Then there were many victories after that. Now, three years later, they are now against allowing officials to close the road to get through traffic easily or to use special lights so they can drive on the opposite side of the street. And this is political! They demand that citizens should be equal under the law. It’s political. Maybe they don’t even recognize that it’s political, but they are demanding it. And now our social movements are the same. It’s very important to recognize and defend your own interests, you should combine with other people in the same situation. If they recognize it and combine, after that it is going on very quickly. In our country, all problems have barriers in the government.
MS: You are much more optimistic than I expected.
LA: I am. I am. That psychiatrist told me that maybe I was crazy. Because I believe.
MS: (laughing) You were normal then but now you’re crazy! If you were young now, would you be more critical of the government and more agitating for change?
LA: I am very critical against this government. During the second presidency of Mr. Putin, they took off almost all our civil rights. The good thing is that in our country, very few people have respect for the law. Okay, they say, they’ve taken away some of our rights by law, but we still use them!
MS: I don’t know whether to agree with you are not. I hear people say there is something slavish in the Russian soul – always has been; they will never be any different. Your optimism is that somehow you will become democratic. Some of my friends say it will never happen because Russians like to be slaves.
LA: Nobody likes to be slaves. In Russia there are parallel processes, toward despotism and toward true freedom. If you study Russian history you will see: Never was there a time when nobody fought for freedom. We had a tragic history but before that, we were a normal European country – not worse than Germany, for example. We went toward democracy slower than England or France, but in comparison with East European countries, we have no differences.
The Soviet period was very different. The problem was not that we are slaves. The problem is that the Soviet system wasn’t brought to our country from outside. This ideology was born in our country. This is the problem; it is much more difficult to overcome it and go to democracy than in any country of East Europe, where it was brought by occupiers. But when we organized the October Revolution, we thought not about slavery, but about freedom – about a special freedom in ______ Yeah?. But we received quite another thing. It was a good lesson for us. Maybe 100 millions of people, especially if you count the foreign-born among those who died. It’s impossible to count. We paid a heavy price for our mistake and now I think it is difficult to go ahead. It’s very unfortunate. But I am optimistic anyway.
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