Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Balkan File Has Moved

Balkan File has moved from its Blogger site and can now be found at:

The site feed has remained the same (, so you shoudn't have to update your feed or e-mail subscriptions.

All previous posts have been moved over to the new site. I will leave this Blogger version of Balkan File up for the time being.

If you have linked to on your website or blog, please update them to link to the new web address.

See you over at the new Balkan File!


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Belgrade: A Step Back In Time

This post at Maria's Wish I Could Reach You In Belgrade blog about a travel book on the Balkans, which was written at the turn of the 20th century, got me wondering how Belgrade looked in the early(ish) 1900s?

So I did a quick search and found some interesting videos of Belgrade from the 1930s and thought I'd share them with you. You should be able to recognise some of the sights:

Update on new address
I'm still tweaking the new Balkan File site and it should be complete by Monday at the latest. So expect the new address then. If you're already subscribed to Balkan File via the RSS feed, it should automatically pick up the new site so you won't have to subscribe again.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's Time to Move

Balkan File is going to be packing up its archives and moving to a new web address next week. I'm currently tweeking the design - I'm a bit sick of the limited and cluttered looking Blogger designs.

I'm currently in the process of transferring all past posts to the new site - unfortunately, I have to do it manually and will loose all the comments. It's a bit sad, but I'm sure you'll all make up for it with new comments in the future! :-)

I hope you will all follow Balkan File over to its new home when the move is complete by updating your RSS feeds and bookmarks. I'll post the new address once everything is sorted out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

So Long Summer

It seems that summer is well and truly over. After weeks and weeks of bright sunshine, clear blue skies and temperatures ranging from 30C to 40C, it was quite a shock to the system at the weekend. Cloud. Rain. 9C-12C.

At first I thought it was just a 'freak' day - and was quite happy to have some relief from the sweltering, summer heat - but no, it's still raining, it's still cold and I don't feel like going outside anymore.

See ya next year summer. Hello autumn, you've made a good start.

PS: I actually quite like autumn and winter, I just would have preferred a gradual transition!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Blog Roundup: Albania

Photo: foC

Ever since discovering that Albania, wedged between Italy, Greece and (former) Yugoslavia, existed, the country has fascinated me. As a teen at high school, I remember some UNICEF workers giving us a lecture, and I was very intrigued by the thought of an extremely poor country in the middle of Europe (at that time, I thought everywhere in Europe was as developed as the UK, Sweden or France - yeah I was a bit clueless at that age). I read some proper history books on the country and was fascinated with the idea of the world's most isolated state (prior to 1992) being right next door to Italy, and the fact that I had no idea it was even there (and quite possibley just because there was a king called Zog).

I've never been to Albania, even though I've been harping on about going for the last 7 years. I will go, one day, it's not that far away to be honest. But, for the time being, I'm quite content with the very interesting snapshots of life in Albania that the following blogs offer:

Inside Albania - A foreigner, who has lived in Tirana for 'long enough', shares his/her thoughts and experiences of living in the capital 'that never sleeps', and claims to still be 'regularly amazed' by life in Albania.

A Nevada Yankee in King Zog's Court - The blog of 'an American who accidentally stumbled into Albania and fell in love'.

Stepping Stones - Kim, an expat from Canada, shares some nice, homely tales of her life in Tirana, a far cry from her home city of Toronto. Kim also has some interesting photos of daily life in Tirana and other Albanian towns and villages.

Living in Shkoder, Albania - Kolin, a fellow Scotsman, abandoned his life in cold, dreary Scotland and settled in Shkoder, a town on the Montenegrin-Albanian border. Living with his Albanian wife and three children, Kolin shares his thoughts and observations about living in Albania.

So, if you're intrigued by this small Balkan country, I recommend that you grab a coffee and check out some of these blogs. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Some More Kind Words

One day after reports that a Serbian State Secretary had suggested that Serbia should import Asian women, more interesting and down-right shocking words were uttered today by Serbian Radical Party officials (nothing new there then) at the first parliament session following a one-month break.

Instead of debating the agenda, Serbian Radical Party officials took the stand and attacked Serbian Prime Minister, blocking the parliament from working effectively. Sure, if you think the parliament is a sham, by all means protest about it. However, there's no need to curse and insult people.

Serbian Radical Party official Nataša Jovanović, speaking about Serbian President Boris Tadić said, 'let his seed run dry, may the sun never warm him, let God's punishment come upon him. Boris Tadić is the greatest traitor. The curse will reach everyone one day.' It is elegantly put, but is parliament really the place to be saying such things? She also added that Serbian curses never end and that she thought everyone learned that in school. Of course they did!

Next to step up on the parliamentary floor was the always lovable SRS official Vjerica Radeta (who is no stranger to controversy). She proceeded to praise Radovan Karadžić and Vojislav Šešelj as Serbian heroes before moving on to declare a 'curse' on any Serbian Radical Party member, as well as his seed and his family, who had met with Tadić after the pro-Karadžić meeting on July 29, 2008, at which a Radical Party sympathiser, Ranko Panić, died. Of course, his death is blamed on 'dictator' Boris Tadić, and not the riotous actions of young hooligans and the subsequent police attempts to retain order.

I really am amazed at the words and sentences which are uttered by some Serbian Radical Party members, you just don't say that sort of stuff in parliament! I understand that they are used to talking this way from the situation in the 1990s and obviously they feel very strongly about their cause - but can't they just be a bit more civil and intelligent about it? Someone needs to buy the Radical party an up-to-date calender and show them it's 2008 and not 1998.

The Serbian Radical Party only seem to want to move the country backwards with their support of indicted war criminals and labelling Boris Tadić a traitor. The only traitors here are those whose actions and words are bad for Serbia and its people and their future - and those actions and words mainly come from the Radicals.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Importing Asian Women

The Serbian Labour Minister Rasim Ljajić had to apologise today for a statement made by State Secretary Željko Vasiljević advising that Serbia should import 100,000 women from Asia to make up for a lack of females in some rural areas of the country.

You really do wonder what goes on inside the heads of some Serbian officials. Perhaps, they should think before they speak and choose their words a bit more carefully. I think the correct phrase would be 'encourage foreign immigration' and not 'import Asian women.'

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Short Trip To Montenegro

Earlier this week I spent a few days in Kotor, Montenegro. Kotor is really, really lovely and I would recommend it to anyone wishing to get away from the busy, intense and suffocating city for a few days. The Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is just beautiful. The coast line and the mountains rising up from all sides are unreal. I'm a city child - born and raised surrounded by concrete - and I was slightly apprehensive about the very slow-pace of life in Kotor, but I very quickly adapted to drinking coffee, eating some delicious food, walking around the streets of the Old Town for the 40th time (which didn't become dull or repetitive), drinking some more coffee, having a beer or two, walking around again, and ending the day with another delicious meal (and another beer). Ice cream was also most welcome at every opportunity with temperatures reaching up to 35C or more.

There are a lot of individual and group tourists in Kotor (mainly Australian, Russian and French), but they are not too imposing and I mainly heard Serbian/Montenegrin during my short stay in the town. One thing you should certainly do when in Kotor is climb up the 1,
300 'steps' (sometimes steps, sometimes broken rocks, sometimes nothing) to the Kotor Fortress for some amazing views over the Kotor Bay. It is extremely hard work and tiring so bring water and food with you! Flip flops were not the ideal footwear for that adventure...

I also took a short trip to Bar, which is a bit further down the coast towards Albania. I wasn't impressed. The food I had was terrible (but that could be down to the particular 'restaurant' I chose) and the beach was not particularly nice and lacked amenities (apart from a rather unsafe looking fairground and an ice cream kiosk selling black market cigarettes). The new town does feature some rather astounding architecture with three dome-shaped buildings housing some shops - apparently the locals refer to them as the 'Three Albanians'.

Ideally, I would have loved to have spent a few more days relaxing in Kotor and perhaps visit some other towns along the coast. The people are friendly, the food is good (just follow the crowds and you're in luck if you're a seafood fan), and the prices are not extortionately high considering the large numbers of tourists descending on the town every summer. So, if you have the chance to visit Kotor, I would say go for it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

No Limit?

During one of my far too regular trawls through YouTube, which can keep you amused for hours you don't have, I stumbled across 200 na sat (200 miles per hour) by Ivan Gravilović, which was released in 1994. I immediately noticed that the music was strangely familiar - in fact, almost entirely the same as eurodance band 2 Unlimited's 'No Limit' (released in 1993 during the rave culture of the 90s in the UK and Europe). Hopefully, most of you would remember this song - whether you despised its repetitive beats and limited vocabulary or fully embraced it as a huge hit.

At first I was mortified and repulsed by the mutilation inflicted upon this 'classic dance hit', but as usual, the more I listen to 1990's Serbian dance music/turbo-folk, the more it grows on me and I no longer wish to fall into a deep, dark hole. 200 na sat, is a pretty pointless song about cars and speed, and is generally accepted to be the song that began the Serbian 1990's phenomenon known as turbo-folk. Turbo-folk is a sub genre of music which emerged in Serbia during the crisis years of the 1990s and is a mixture of contemporary (at the time) dance beats and Serbian folk music.

It became immensely popular with urban youth, in particular the dizelaši (dieselites), a group of ultra-macho, sporty young males
who were fond of wearing Diesel brand clothing, and particularly fueled the 'macho culture' of Serbia during the 1990s. It produced a whole host of other famous turbo-folk singers such as the infamous Ceca and Jelena Karleuša. Turbo-folk today is regarded to epitomise ultra-nationalism and the Milošević regime.

Regardless of the dark connotations associated with turbo-folk music, it can be quite enjoyable and amusing to watch and listen to them. Here's Ivan Gravilović's version of 'No Limit'. Enjoy, but don't be too critical of their music video budget - hyper-inflation was in full swing!

Friday, August 1, 2008

When Did Belgrade Get a Metro?!

Do you notice anything wrong with the video below? It was available on the CNN website a few days ago and shows footage from the riots that took place on July 29 in Belgrade during the Serbian Radical Party meeting in support of Radovan Karadžic.

If you have ever visited Belgrade, you should be able to spot some rather unfamiliar things in that video. CNN has mixed in footage of riots that took place in Budapest, Hungary, with that of the riots in Belgrade. "Surely, this is a simple mistake by the editing team," I hear you cry. Well, someone must have been pretty incompetent to mix in footage from over one year ago!

If you look carefully, during the first 19 seconds you can see/hear:

- Hungarian police officers
- Hungarian flags
- Cars on fire (no cars were torched in the Belgrade riot)
- The Hungarian language
- Hungarian license plates
- Water cannons to disperse protesters (that didn't happen either in Belgrade)

Then we are shown real footage of what actually happened in Belgrade on Tuesday. That's all good then, but during the last 12 seconds you can see:

- that suddenly Belgrade has acquired a metro system (wouldn't that be lovely?)

Okay, so what on earth's going on here? It's not as if there was a lack of footage from the Belgrade riots that CNN felt they needed to pad out their report with some other footage (which is not exactly a credible practice for a worldwide news outlet, is it?), Some comments on the web seem to hint that perhaps CNN were deliberately trying to make the protests seem more violent than they actually were - I don't really believe that, but still, how does somebody accidentally edit in footage from an entirely different country and which was filmed over one year ago?

It does leave you thinking whether you can actually trust what you see on CNN or indeed any other news outlet. The fact that CNN has yet to give any official statement on the matter just adds further to the mystery. What do you think?

Here's some quite lengthy 'as it happened' footage of the riots on Tuesday - perhaps somebody could forward it on to the CNN news team?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pro-Karadžić Meeting Violence

As everyone guessed, violent conflicts between Serbian police and football hooligans, thugs and children with nothing better to do have taken place during the pro Radaovan Karadžić rally in the centre of Belgrade. I've just watched a section of those present at the meeting in Republic Square (Trg republike) broke off and began throwing rocks, sticks, fireworks, homemade bomb-like devices. They also smashed a couple of shop windows on Makedonska street.


Honestly, half of those guys fighting the police looked 16 years old. They weren't even alive, or just had a few years, during the Yugoslav wars. What exactly do they identify with? What has it even got to do with them? I understand to some extent the older generation still believing Karadžić is a war hero - but these kids are just looking to cause trouble and in doing so completely cancel out the message the peaceful protesters want to make and the Radical Party of Serbia and their allies just loose even more credibility.

The centre now looks a complete mess. Hopefully, those caught by the police will face the full brunt of the law - they need to finally realise that they can't cause violence in the city centre whenever they feel like it.

I'll write more about the protests in a bit once more information becomes available.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Radicals Threatening President Tadic?

Serbian Radical Party Official Vjerica Radeta has apparently made death threats against Serbian President Boris Tadic. At a press conference on July 25 on the arrest of Hauge indictee Radovan Karadžić, Vjerica Radeta said that "betrayal never goes unpunished in Serbia," and told those present that Boris Tadić and his regime may suffer the same fate as previous Serbian 'traitors' such as Zoran Đinđic and the Obrenović dynasty. I, as well as many others, interpreted these remarks as threats. I am honestly amazed that a politician could say such things in public, I mean, come on, making direct, indirect or even just hinting at the death of a state president is not something that's done, is it? Well, clearly it is if you're a member of the Serbian Radical Party.

Vjerica Radeta went on to say that 'God punishes to the seventh generation' and called on the Serbian Orthodox Church to react as they have the right to banish people from the Church and cast anathemas. Wait a second, are we in the 18th century or the 21st?

In response to a question regarding the brutal attack on a B92 cameraman during one of the pro-Karadžić protests in Belgrade, Radeta claimed that the attacker was planted by the Tadić regime in order to cause provocation and said that she had not noticed any violence at any of these 'peaceful' protests - take a look at the video in a previous post to see just how peaceful these protests have actually been.

More recently, Serbian Radial Party Leader Tomislav Nikolić has slated Radio Televizija Srbije (RTS - the national broadcaster) for unbiased reporting of the Karadžić saga and said that if they do not appeal to the 50 percent of the Serbian population who support Karadžić they will disrupt the work of RTS with a reference to Bastille.

Honestly, how long can the Radicals continue to make such public threats, refuse to condemn acts of violence and think that we're still living in the past? Get with reality and stop acting as if Serbia's still in the 1990s.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Karadžić Arrest

During the night more details have emerged about the arrest of Radovan Karadžić. Apparently, he was arrested on Monday evening while he was travelling on one of the regular city buses in New Belgrade (Novi Beograd). It's not known how long he's been 'hiding' in Belgrade, but he had assumed a false identity under the name Dragan Dabić. He hasn't really been hiding at all, in the traditional sense, but has in fact been quite in the public view for sometime. Karadžić is now sporting a large white beard and is rather unrecognisable. To make a living for himself, he's been practicing alternative medicine at a practice in the capital, even giving several lectures in front of hundreds of people and even camera crews and regularly contributing to Healthy Life magazine. It's quite odd to think that perhaps I've walked past Radovan Karadžić in the city centre where it's said he often frequented to have coffee.

As expected, world leaders and International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia officials have praised the arrest of one of the most wanted men in the world, whilst Serbian Radical Party officials have condemned the arrest, stating that 'it is a sad day for Serbia' and branding Serbian President Boris Tadić a 'traitor of the Serbian people'. The Radical Party have announced that they will be organising large protests over the coming days - a lovely invitation for Obraz thugs and other loutish nationalists to show up and cause some chaos.

Talking about chaos, we saw a small glimpse of what could be a regular occurrence over the next days in Belgrade today at Republic Square (Trg republike) in the very city centre. Several hundred people gathered, particularly young nationalist men, alongside a contingency of riot police. Squirmishes ensued with rudimentary exploding devices and fireworks being thrown all over the place. Here's a video of what took place at around 5pm today in Belgrade city centre:

Radovan Karadžić, a Bosnian Serb, is indicted by the Hague tribunal on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Bosnian War (1992-1996) including shelling during the siege of Sarajevo, during which some 12,000 died, and the notorious Srebrenica massacre in 1995, in which 8,000 Bosniak Muslim boys and men were killed. He is likely to be transferred later this week.

It will certainly be an interesting time in Serbia the next few weeks. Let's hope nothing gets out of hand too much.

Radovan Karadžić Arrested

It seems that Serbian war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadžić was arrested earlier tonight somewhere in Serbia. Didn't expect that on a mundane Monday night. The new pro-European government was formed very recently, and already we have one of the better known to the rest of the world fugitives arrested. Stojan Župljanin, another fugitive, was arrested in Belgrade in June.

Just two more to go - Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić.

However, what interests me more is the fallout from this arrest. He is seen by many in Serbia as a war hero. Will there be protests, both for and against? How will the press and government and party officials react. Let's wait until the morning.

Sleep well.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ahh, the 90s

I came across some clips of Serbian pop music from the 90s. I found them highly amusing. This one is by a Serbian boy band in 1995 - Beat Street (Bit strit). The 'Xena-esque' women warriors and the guys costumes are truly remarkable, don't you think?

Glad to see that British and Serbian 90s pop share the same awful dance moves.


PS: Apologies, I'm sure many people enjoyed this at the time, I'm not knocking the production - it just made me laugh!

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

I've just returned from a two week holiday to the UK, visiting my home town of Edinburgh and friends in London. It was lovely to be back in my own country, and in particular Edinburgh. I went to all the old spots with friends whom I haven't seen for nearly a year now and did some touristy things with V who'd never been to Edinburgh or London before.

Regardless how nice it was to be back 'home', I must admi
t I was very relieved and extremely happy to land back in Belgrade on Saturday and even the blocks of New Belgrade on the way back from the airport were a comforting and familar sight, and perhaps even more familiar sight than Edinburgh or London.

Yesterday, I took a stroll round the centre of Belgrade, the sun was shining (unlike in the UK where it rained, got a bit sunny, rained again and
even snowed), and the city looked remarkably green and summer like. I had a coffee and a cigarette, inside the cafe and simultaneously - something missing from the UK for two weeks! I also treated myself to some delicious Sarajevo cevapcici - which was whole lot better than the overpriced Indian take-away I had been craving in London.

I think I can safely say that Belgrade and Serbia are now my true home. I don't think I could move back to the UK (perhaps Edinburgh as I spent most of my life there), and definitely never London. Both Belgrade and London are
large, bustling cities, but Belgrade has that much more relaxed feel to the place, I can walk virtually everywhere - I detest the tube..eurgh), people are not rushing around and two coffees and two slices of cake don't cost 2,000 dinars/£20 (admittedly, we were in Covent Garden, but still!).

So, while walking round Belgrade, even the mundane s
mall streets near my flat, I couldn't help but smile and be thankful that I discovered this place. Regardless of all the problems this city/country has, Belgrade is a fantastic city to live in and somewhere which is home to me now.

Here's some photos I took while walking around on Sunday:

Friday, February 22, 2008

Riots In Belgrade

Yesterday, a largely peaceful protest was held outside the Parliament building in central Belgrade. 250,000 people gathered, of all political persuasions, to show their opposition to the independence of Kosovo and listen to speeches from political leaders and celebrities. Unfortunately, Boris Tadic, the recently re-elected pro-European president of Serbia, was in Romania and didn't appear at the rally.

Afterwards, groups of hooligans, angry youths and, quite frankly, idiots, broke off from the main
rally and headed off in various directions around the city. The U.S. Embassy was attacked, which for some odd reason was not protected at first by the police, considering the fact I saw three bus loads of riot police guarding the Slovene embassy the day before, by an angry mob. They set fire to part of the building, and unfortunately, a body has been found. Other mobs set off for Slavija and completely destroyed the McDonald's, which was houses in a rather pretty historical building. Embassies of the UK, Belgium, Canada, Bosnia, and Turkey were also attacked and stoned.

I had set off for work around 6.30pm, just as the main rally was finis
hing and saw a lot of rather unsavoury characters, chanting 'Kill the Albanians', 'Albanians don't exist' etc., heading off around the city. My colleagues and I watched the running battles up and down Terazije from the safety of the upstairs windows, as colleagues from the photograph department ran in and out, hanging through windows, taking pictures and recovering from the effects of tear gas. I must admit, it was certainly the most exciting shift so far!

Mobs of hooligans and opportunistic people who were in the area attacked the McDonalds on Terazije (which had already been smashed up on Sunday), and smashed in the windows of United Colors of Benetton, Levis, a pharmacy, and various other stores on Terazije, Sremska ulica, Nikola Pasic Square, and the main pedestrian shopping street Knez Miheala (particularly the shops that had not placed a 'Kosovo is Serbia' sign in their windows) and looted them (some were completely empty by the time everyone was under control. Some buses and cars were set alight, traffic lights smashed and garbage containers overturned. Journalists were attacked and there were a reported 150 injuries to police and bystanders.

By the time I had finished work at 9.30pm, the rioting had died down and I was able to make why way home safely and without much concern. I did experience
a burning sensation in my eyes, a residual effect of the tear gas used probably over an hour ago.

This vandalism and rioting has been broadcast all over the world and does not present a dignified picture of Serbia and its cause. I am saddened by the mindless idiots who have probably just strengthened the stereotype of primitive, violent, dangerous Serbs. But violence that was seen in Belgrade last night has been seen all over the world in the UK, USA, France, hell, even Denmark. It's just a shame that it won't be labelled as the acts of a minority of mindless football hooligans and idiots. Svaka im cast!

Here you can see the mayhem that happened last night in Belgrade.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Belgrade Daily Photo

I stumbled across this blog today. It has some amazing photos of daily life in Belgrade. I suggest you check it out!

Belgrade Daily Photo

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sophisticated Belgrade

I found this rather funky Belgrade tourism commerical from the 1980s. It's a lot more interesting than Serbia's most recent attempt at tourism advertising. Enjoy!

Just try and tell me the tune is not even the slightest bit catchy.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Presidential Elections

The results of the first round of Serbia's presidential election are in and Serbian Radical Party candidate Tomislav Nikolic won. He received 39.6% of the vote, while Democratic Party candidate Boris Tadic, who is currently the Serbian president, received 35.5%.

Tomislav Nikolic

I personally would not like to see the Radical Party in power. They are against the European Union and would most likely end up isolating Serbia again. I doubt things would get as bad as back in the 90s, but it would certainly not be a step forward.

On 3 February, the second round of the presidential election will take place, with Tadic and Nikolic facing against each other. I'm pretty sure that we will see Tadic come out top here. What we are seeing here is essentially a mirror-image of the 2004 election.

I haven't really been following the run up to the first round of the election and haven't really given the whole affair much thought; it's been a busy time with friends coming to visit from their various newly-adopted countries. I shall try to follow the campaigning leading up the second round and post my thoughts.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Festive Season

Just thought I should wish all my Orthodox friends a Merry Christmas! Srecan Bozic! I've just got back from a very filling meal at a classic Serbian kafana (restaurant), Toplica in the Hotel Royale in Belgrade (for those in the know), with some friends. It was packed as one of the very few places open today.

So, it's been 2008 for eight days now, and I have begun working on my New Year resolution - update this blog more regularly! I've been so busy working these last weeks I've really just not had the time or energy. Hopefully, I will actually stick to this resolution!

I haven't moaned much about Belgrade or Serbia yet, but I really must complain at how dangerous it gets outside when its minus 3 and the streets completely freeze over. Belgrade, quite literally, turns into one giant ice skating rink. It's absolutely deadly and there's been hundreds of people turning up at the Accident & Emergency with broken arms, feet and for some poor unfortunate souls, skulls. I avoid this by just not going out unless it's absolutely necessary!

Have a good holiday everyone, and if you're not on holiday - have fun at work!

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