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Kytherian Identity

Culture > Kytherian Identity > George C Poulos Interviewed by Professor Anastasios M. Tamis on Thursday 7th July 2005

15668: Culture > Kytherian Identity

submitted by Anastasios Tamis on 07.08.2008

George C Poulos Interviewed by Professor Anastasios M. Tamis on Thursday 7th July 2005

GEORGE C POULOS

Interview by Professor Anastasios M. Tamis on Thursday 7th July 2005


A.M. Tamis: This is Thursday 7th of July 2005; we’re speaking with Mr. George Poulos from the Kytherian Association in Sydney, a person who’s well aware of the issues of the Kytherian Brotherhood.
Mr. George Poulos: As a background, one of the most giving families in the Kytherian family is the Notaras family. Their father came out as a young boy and he set up the Marble Bath Café in Grafton. The eldest son who’s name is Mitchell he went to London following Archie Kalokerinos to be a doctor. Archie was a cousin of his and he became a very well established specialist and he became quite wealthy. In the year 2003 he gave 1,1 million dollars to start a specialty research faculty at Sydney University where he was an undergraduate to his specific field of medicine.
His younger two brothers became inventors. Their main invention was a universal motor for chainsaws. Instead of throwing away old chainsaws you can buy this particular system and they won the ABC Inventor of the Year in 1970 and they have a private business group called Atom Industries. It has captured the market. It’s the number one leader in lawn edges and that sort of thing. Also they revolutionized the way in which you could punch holes through those big massive wharfs. In the old days you had to get a very expensive machine and come in and do the job, by putting it on to a large hand-held machine, which was driven by petrol they were able to penetrate the massive holes and put the walls together. What they’ve done in the past, one of them, Angelo, has given St Andrews …..by the Greek Orthodox Church. They donated a whole lot of pillars and they tooled them up in their factory, because they do tooling in their factory and sent them to all the Archdioceses around Australia and they collected money in those pillars and at the end when they were full, they were sent back and I think they raised around 750.000 dollars by doing that. As well as that when the website idea came up in Berlin www.kythera-island.net; Angelo said whatever money is required, I want this to happen. So he and John gave the first 12-14.000 dollars and then it started very quickly. Instead of being a small organization, we’ve got 6.700 entries on the website now. Many of them also related to benefactors and books about benefactors. The family also got behind that. They were also instrumental, without them; Gilchrist 1, 2 and 3 wouldn’t be done. They provided all the money for Gilchrist 1, did all the promotion, got the publisher and then is Gilchrist 2 and 3 and I think everybody agree this is the most important book This are the major things they have done as a family.
A.M. Tamis: Now, what is your view about Nicholas Lorantos’s contribution?
Mr. George Poulos: Nicholas Lorantos established the village of ….. He was a very-very poor kid; there is not a clear picture of his life. But he established the village; he helped the Kytherian Association get through many-many crises because the Kytherian Association hasn’t had a very clear run. There was a situation for example when they were nearly closed down, financially closed down and then 100 Kytherians put in 1.000 dollars each and got them out of trouble, very serious trouble and so he was instrumental into helping promote that as well. His contribution has been superb, I mean now Lorantos Village just got a new wing and caters for quite a number of Kytherians. He became separately because he came through the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese, the priests run the village and they are separate from the Association. But the Archdiocese was aided initially by his contribution and couldn’t proceed without it. But now they can see the benefits and they understand.
A.M. Tamis: What about his contribution to the Lorantos Chair of Modern Greek?
Mr. George Poulos: Well, I don’t know very much about that. I do know that he provided funds for that.
A.M. Tamis: He provided 900.000 dollars.
Mr. George Poulos: That’s right.
A.M. Tamis: Is his family still contributing?
Mr. George Poulos: My understanding is no, I don’t think so.
A.M. Tamis: Those people they did have enough money to support ………….
Mr. George Poulos: Look they did. Whatever money we can make should go back into the community. But not everybody does. We know when we want to get contributions lets say of 2.000 dollars to sponsor a section of the website that is very difficult to get contributions. It’s not too hard to get up to say 20 contributors but beyond that they don’t have this community feeling. The Malcolm Turnbul kind of person who can feel it’s almost an obligation. There is this 5% who makes enormous contributions.
A.M. Tamis: In the past many Kytherians didn’t even become members of the Kytherian Association. Why is this happening?
Mr. George Poulos: At the moment we have about 500 members in the Kytherian Association of Australia, which is not a very large number, because the Kytherian population in Sydney is much greater. I would say in New South Wales they have to be 30.000 people of Kytherian descent.
A.M. Tamis: We tried to cross populations demographically; at the height of the demographical state, Kythera had about 8.500 people.
Mr. George Poulos: I will give you later a …..book and the exact population per decade going quite away back using the Venetian records in Kythera, I think it was 12.500 from memory. Look, I’ve tried to do this mathematically in my mind; somebody probably can do it statistically that every three generations, it would take three generations you lost 10.000 people, most of most have come to Australia. So you really have 30.000 people. Then you have the descendants of those 30.000 over a century.
A.M. Tamis: I heard that they are about 35.000 in Sydney, someone else claiming 40.000. The contribution in the community life and how instrumental the Kytherians were. This is by far more important. Whether they were 20.000 or 30.000 – it is important for the Kytherians – now that they are 3.500 left in the island, it is important to know where their compatriots are. We did find at least 15 households, Kytherian households, in the Lorantos family; they made some contribution in the area of letters and publishing newspaper in Buenos Aires in the 30’s, and they are also in Porto Alegre but anyway your estimate is about 20.000 people here.
Mr. George Poulos: 20.000 to 30.000 I would guess. I’d love to see a proper demographic and I don’t think it is that difficult.
A.M. Tamis: It is difficult for us because when we go to the Pontian groups, they say they were 80.000 in Australia, and then you’ve got the Peloponnesians they are claiming about 60.000. If this were true, then the Greeks in Australia would have been at least about 1,4 million in Australia. According to statistical data with ABS, we are 498.000 including the second and third generation of Greek descent.
Mr. George Poulos: My children and grandchildren of immigrant descent, my guess is that they would get lost in the wide Australian Anglo-Saxon population through the ABS.
A.M. Tamis: That’s why I’ve said about constant relations, because according to the ABS, gross figure is 360.000. But if you ………..with the Greek Orthodox faith and the Greek language and then again those three variables are not enough, so its ancestry one, religion and language spoken at home. Those three variables are ……… they are 498.000 people including the Cypriots.
Mr. George Poulos: We learned through the website there is a “Back to Kythera Roots” function, that was organized in Kythera this year and a lot of people are coming from around the world; Westcom, that’s their surname who’s grandfather came here in 1904 or something and you’ve got all these Anglo-Saxon names going back, now I am absolutely certain they haven’t been picked up by the ABS figures and certainly they haven’t been picked up by anybody.
A.M. Tamis: The analysis always gives a 5 to 8% plus or minus just for those cases. Let’s say over half a million Greeks, add another 10% on that and you’ve got another 50.000. If that is true or close to the accuracy, then it is very difficult honestly to establish a figure.
Mr. George Poulos: Can I get to tell you about a couple of thing that they are important? There is a MA thesis by a lady called Maria Hill, which isn’t her initial name; I think it is Papadopoulos, that was done in 1970 and she gained an MA for it and the whole of that text is on the website. That traces mainly Kytherians but also catches the regent’s immigration. The second thesis is a PhD thesis for which an English fellow called Kevin Cork did not get a PhD; he died before he finished it, but his widow gave me the thesis and that is about Greek-Australian ownership of cinemas in New South Wales. That includes the Lorantos family and that is also on the website. There are a lot of resources, Kytherian resources on the web. Coroneos called the cinemas the Parthenon of the south and how they conceived them in their minds. But there is a very large number; they dominated the cinema industry of Australia, the Kytherians, like no other group. We are talking about hundreds of cinemas.
Other contribution in Kythera has to be kept in mind. The Old People’s Home, the Kastelakis village also started from money here, also when they were going to the hospital, when Kytherians were going back to Kythera and getting serious illnesses; because they were going back in old ages; and the hospital didn’t have the equipment – even basic equipment – so these guys established it and that’s also chronicled on the web. A hospital fund and people like Theo Karidis, Peter Blantos-the hotel owner- they gave 10.000 each; and bought quite sophisticated equipment and they do that on an ongoing basis so that is also a contribution they made for Kythera from here.
A.M. Tamis: In the area community we have traced very important names like Krikaris and others in the very early stages of the community with a very sound contribution; I am talking about the decade of the 20’s and how would you ……..those contributions to the church, the building of “Agia Triada” (Holy Trinity). I do know that currently there is a rift between the official church and the community. This is another issue; you should not be involved on that; we are trying now to establish whether the Kytherians, according to our archives, they played a very big role for Agia Triada with contributions, funds, mainly café owners and restaurateurs of Kytherian background. Is this well recorded within the conscious of your community?
Mr. George Poulos: Yes, Agia Triada was always called the Kytherian church. It was a matter of trying to import as many of their traditions in Australia as quickly as possible. Many of them happened to become very wealthy, very quickly and they had the ability to do and they did do it. The Agia Triada church is almost minor compare to what they did in 1935, which is, establish AHEPA. 80% of the original persons to establish AHEPA were Kytherians as well.
A.M. Tamis: This is another demonstration, another evidence that Kytherians were Pan-Hellenic.
Mr. George Poulos: They were sending money to establish the church ………………….
A.M. Tamis: Kytherian AHEPANS were launched in Queensland after, weren’t they?
Mr. George Poulos: The first group we had on the web at least 80% of them was Kytherian shop owners, strangely enough from country towns.
A.M. Tamis: What was their mission statement?
Mr. George Poulos: They wanted to have like a Pan-Hellenic body that will help and aid new immigrants. I think they borrow the concept from America and they were now starting to get sufficiently wealthy and they thought they should contribute something back and so this concept arrives from America and they took it up whole heartily.
Now the AHEPA society as you probably know, is very strong.
A.M. Tamis: Do you see, do you honestly see the Kytherian presence in the world as a movement as what we call Kythiraismos, which is a strong movement which can influence not only the affairs of the island but it can influence the spirit of Hellas?
Mr. George Poulos: I think so. There is a definite feeling that you have about being Kytherian, which I don’t detect in people from the mainland. I have cousins who come from Patras for example, they don’t have that same feelings; that really deep feelings about Kythera and its background and the emotion that stirs up a difference and I think the Kytherians gain energy from the island itself. You go back to the island, you get the energy, you lour the myths, you go to Neraida and you go to Paleopoli.
A.M. Tamis: Is this because, I’m trying to trace the historical factors and variables. Kythera was under British rule, it was a protectorate of the British Empire, and it was not under the Turkish rule, I would say, that the tens of thousands of people from the mainland in order to escape the Turkish rule went to Kythera and settled there permanently of the last 300 years and of course most perhaps of British citizens are from Laconia or from South Peloponnesos; the fact is that is this a concomitant of the British rule and is this a concomitant perhaps of this change and movement the population went through this social movement that gave you this inspiration to call Kythera home. There is a very good friend of mine and my wife’s as well and I intent to ask him this in September to elaborate on that issue. I can send you the program of the next conference.
Mr. George Poulos: To answer your question, I don’t think it’s solely had to do with that British presence or the fact that our descendants migrated from there. I think each one of us who get this feeling, we get it from the island when we go and step back on the island and explore the island and explore the churches on the island and explore the history and explore the beauty of the island and we get it back again.
A.M. Tamis: Are you in search of Aphrodite?
Mr. George Poulos: Well in a funny way, I guess it is possible but not really. I think what happened with me and with many of the people I speak to; your parents had been bought up in a non-…… society, so all of them; mythology and verbal, so they are very good at conveying verbal images and very good at imaginary projection. So when we where growing up they projected all these images in our minds and when we go back it’s the ability to project those verbal images are so good that it is almost exactly the way they said it was. For example you look at something and because your parents told you sixteen hundred times that’s how it looks; it’s exactly how it looks. An amazing ability they had.
That’s why people like George Miller getting to make movies; they are mythmakers. They make these myths and they pass those myths on to us and then we have them inside us. His name (paratsoukli) is Miliotis.
A.M. Tamis: He is now one of the best directors that we have here in Australia?
Mr. George Poulos: In the world.
A.M. Tamis: In the world. I do not doubt that. This is another contribution. Do you have the story?
Mr. George Poulos: I’ve actually have his original story on the website including his background. He comes from Mitata in the central part of Kythera and his father-paratsoukli was Miliotis and he took his paratsoukli as his surname. Miller as in the tender of the mill. Dimitri was the father – some of Dimitri’s poetry is on there; he was a very romantic man; he wrote poetry to his wife. Quite a bit of Miller stuff on the website.
A.M. Tamis: Unfortunate he is away; he is not in Australia.
Mr. George Poulos: He is a very private person.
A.M. Tamis: Is he considering himself identified with the Greek culture?
Mr. George Poulos: Oh yes, definitely he does. He comes from a very successful family. His other two brothers are both doctors; he studied and became a doctor himself. The other brother Bill is the main solicitor for Kennedy-Miller productions. All four brothers became very prominent.
A.M. Tamis: How do you see the Miller contribution in the movies in general?
Mr. George Poulos: Well I think with Mad Max he has created a mythic hero. It is much more sophisticated than the typical movies. He took it to another level. It also Lorenzo’s Oil and many other sophisticated films which are far above the average Australian film.
A.M. Tamis: It is important that Greeks excel in the area of cinema. We have good actors, we have Kokkinos; another director.
Mr. George Poulos: We also have Conomos who is a visual artist; I haven’t got him on the web because he is also a very private person. His first name I think is George. He does artwork but he also does art construction.
A.M. Tamis: George, do you believe there is any other contribution that should we know? Whatever we are going to collect and does not exist in your collection we can kindly give it to you.
Mr. George Poulos: There are a lot more contributions other than those. Business wise they’ve obviously been very superior. Theo Karidis for example. This 320 million man; sold Theo’s Liquor to Coles-Myer, Nick Politis was born in Karavas, his father came to be the agricultural teacher. You must go back and see that the initial money that came from Smyrna and Egypt and Africa. This information is also on the web. Patriakos was his name sent money back from Africa from memory, Egypt I think, to set up an agricultural school. So he sent the money for the building – the building still exists – and then he gave the money for Nick Politis father to come to Karavas in Kythera to teach the “horiates” how to do the agricultural task properly; which didn’t really work because all the horiates were not happy about that. But that was the sort of thing that used to happen. The initial period of money coming back to the island for example one of the Tzitzopoulos clan set up a big supermarket in Baltimore very early and he sent the money back for all the water to be put on in Karavas. The entire water of Karavas arrived from money from overseas. That was a common thing in the 10’s and the 20’s; when people made some money in America, Africa and Asia Minor and they put money back to establish them. This happened very quickly and I think that’s what kept much more advanced than many of the other islands in some of the technical areas, old people’s home; they were very superior compare to many other islands.
A.M. Tamis: With Nick Politis; is he contributing to the community affairs? Is he contributing the Kytherian affairs? I know he is a very rich man.
Mr. George Poulos: He hasn’t contributed but I don’t think we asked him to. For example every year I ask him to contribute to the Karavitiko Symposium which we celebrate the name day and we have done for 40 years and every year I ask him to contribute and he provides me with a 1.000 donation whenever he does. But I think one of the problems is that the leaders such as myself for example on the Kytherian Association Committee; we are embarrassed to go and ask him. But I am certain, every time that we have a need for example with the website; we raised 25.000 very quickly, every time we have a need they respond to the need. But we don’t have a proper channel in system whether it can be done on a regular basis. We are lacking on the administration part.
Also very important during the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s before the ……because; two reasons in my opinion, the status of the …….in Sydney and in country New South Wales is very high ……………it’s a very high status area. So that was one of the ways the Kytherians gained very high status very early; that’s the first thing, and being the center of the entertainment of an entire community was also very important function, very underestimated and comes out recently well in the Cork thesis; were you are the provider of people’s happiness in many ways being a cinema owner. That’s all they had in country towns in some ways to entertain themselves. So if you would be seen as the center of that ability to entertain people; you also had a very high status. The third thing that came through with the cinemas was that they created (it is also on the website) a number of charity events with cinemas particularly in the war and they gained a lot of ……by doing that as well. But even in other areas by using the cinema as a mean for raising funds for various community functions; so that was the third area. So cinemas were very important.
A.M. Tamis: They also provided support for the cafes. Without the cinemas the cafes wouldn’t exist. The cinemas also were the center of the town or the city, so the entire socio-economic mobility was in fact based on the cinemas until the middle of the 60’s of course. Those things you told me were very-very helpful, George, I would like to ask you about the contribution of Minas Coroneos in the island; when he commenced his trips in the year 2000 to offer assistance to the island. This is also important.
Mr. George Poulos: My grandmother when she was alive used to have to go to Piraeus to get her eyes fixed and was a major hassle. She couldn’t cope with this very well because she had to find accommodation. So she had to do that, when I came back in 1994, I said to Mina- we had a coffee at Double Bay – Mina, I’ve got a project for you, I want you to be involved with. I explained to him what happened to old people, they are struggling; many of them have cataracts in my opinion, although I’m not an expert. Mina said right. I’m going to do something. Then he began planning very carefully and very thoroughly for this project and it has been a fantastic contribution that he’s made because other Kytherians with expertise have contributed.
Strangely enough, his father was one of the first to have the procedure. It’s a continuing feeling of community involvement.
A.M. Tamis: The late Nicholas Stamelos according to our notes here has donated a property and land for the cultural center, are you aware of that?
Mr. George Poulos: No. I am aware of another donation, which was a car park at Potamos by the Marselos family and some of the Marselos’ here will be able to tell you about that. Potamos is an area that there is no place to park. That was a very generous donation. It was one of those family properties.
A.M. Tamis: What about the Vamvakaris brothers?
Mr. George Poulos: Very generous, very high contributors, also with our website, one of the first people to come on board.
There is a group who are about 70 years of age and a little bit older who center around the Notaras brothers in many ways and who had a great deal of respect for them, who are good contributors. As soon as Angelo has a project, he knows he can ask those people.
To interview Angelo Notaras will get you very deep into the significant contributors of Kytherians on a regular basis for charities and community work.
A.M. Tamis: Notaras’ has a strong involvement in the family website?
Mr. George Poulos: Yes. That is his brother. This is his twin brother. Mitchell and Angelo are twins but not identical.
A.M. Tamis: Do you communicate with Angelo?
Mr. George Poulos: Every day by e-mail actually.
A.M. Tamis: Is he still active in the community life?
Mr. George Poulos: Oh yes, absolutely. Initially he was awarded the Fernandez Cross by the Archdiocese for his contributions. He is close to the Archbishop.
A.M. Tamis: Unfortunately we lost Alex Kilidis lately in Brisbane.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get hold of George Miller; his brother is also George Miller. Is he a doctor?
Mr. George Poulos: He became a medical doctor. His background is medical, I think his twin brother was also a doctor and studying at the same time but he didn’t like being a doctor.
A.M. Tamis: In what way did he benefit Kythera?
Mr. George Poulos: He provided all the funding for Agia Triada church in Nikata. At least 30.000 dollars, that I’m aware of and maybe more. The church was virtually in ruins and was completely refurbished.
A.M. Tamis: Helen Andrews, being the only daughter of Sir Nicholas Lorantos; is she and her husband in any way involved with the Kytherian ways?
Mr. George Poulos: No, the next generation of the Lorantos’, no they have no involvement.
Obviously the most important contributions …………………….the documents are accessible. To my point being an administrator of a series of associations without the Aroney Trust the feeling of “Kytheraismos” has been very much diminished. Very-very important contributions they make now days up to 18.000 dollars a year just to keep the Greek dancing alive. They make it directly to us the Kytherian Association of Australia; every year in the last 2-3 years they gave 18.000 dollars. So what happens is there is a whole new generation of Kytherians in particular, we also bring other Greeks from other regions; they learn Greek dancing and that keeps it going and has done for a number of decades.
A.M. Tamis: You are referring to Nicholas Aroney of course.
Mr. George Poulos: Nicholas Aroney who left the estate. But that is one contribution. The other contributions with the website; they given us 15.000 dollars from their own trust. They also established the Aroney award, which rewards academic excellence for young students.
A.M. Tamis: This is definitely quite important.
Mr. George Poulos: Also more important they provide very large amounts of funds to the Society of Kytherian Studies including, to my knowledge, 28.000 dollars for the Kytherian surnames book; which traces every Kytherian surname. They provided the funding for that, they provided the funds for maintaining the artifacts from the island.
A.M. Tamis: The Nicholas Aroney Trust is used to benefit and assist Kytherian and other Greek causes.
One of the wealthiest men in Australia; born of Kythera, top level administration in rugby league football and in soccer. We are talking about Politis. So Politis contribution to soccer, I think it is important too.
Mr. George Poulos: Yes, he started very early.
A.M. Tamis: Do you know anything about his contribution with rugby league football?
Mr. George Poulos: Oh, yes. He is the managing director of the Eastern Suburbs Rugby League. Has been for many years, he was also the co-owner of the Hellenic Soccer Club and always contributed and before that other soccer clubs. His companies provide very large sponsorships to rugby league football; he’s also at the board of the NRL, he is a very-very prominent character in all forms of sports.
A.M. Tamis: What do you know about John Comino? He used to be a former mayor I think.
Mr. George Poulos: Also a very significant book, which I am sure you are aware of
“Life in Australia” (Ζωή στην Αυστραλία), the first one, 1917. We had the whole book translated and transcribed on the website; its now in English as well.
His grandfather had that written. He is a very prominent suburban solicitor; he was for two years mayor in a municipality in Sydney and now he has made himself a mission to make the Hellenic Club in Sydney the best it can be. They have push through now development proposals through the Sydney council.
A.M. Tamis: Thank you very much.
Mr. George Poulos: Nick Politis was born in the πατρικό σχολείο and he left at about four and a half years. His father married a girl from Karava as well and then strangely enough he went to Brisbane and they won a lottery. Don’t mention this when you are talking to him. It was a very significant amount of money. 100.000 pounds in those days would have bought you half a street. He is a very clever man.
A.M. Tamis: What about Chris and Con Vamvakaris? They said they are not interested for an interview.
Mr. George Poulos: That is strange. Because I’ve got a note downstairs saying come for an interview to put some stuff on the website; unless they are not well.
A.M. Tamis: Initially they did accept, it doesn’t matter.
Dennis Vandis, he said he couldn’t help, as he doesn’t mix up with the Kytherians. Dennis is the son of Peter Vandis.
Mr. George Poulos: You should speak to Peter.
A.M. Tamis: Peter is not here he is in Kythera.
Mr. George Poulos: What a shame. Peter is very important.
The other people who have done extraordinary well here and you should see and who are also very generous in their own way are the Poulos brothers. Poulos brothers fish. Dennis and Con Anastasopoulos. Also one of the wealthiest companies in Australia. They live in Sydney. Initially Anastasopoulos if you want to know from Kythera. You also can go to their website, they own a lot of companies in Tasmania and Victoria. They are very important people.
The other thing to mention is; on the website we have a theme called High Achievers. That will give you a very good indication of the types of people; for example Professor Aroney will be able to tell you about a Professor of Engineering; you will find a number of people in America who are quite prominent as well and quite a number of people in Australia, who you wouldn’t pick up on your radar.
I would be talking to Taki Venos, unless you are already talking to him on the AHEPA to get the whole background of AHEPA.
A.M. Tamis: I already talked to Manolis Comino.
Mr. George Poulos: Mention Takis to Manolis because he has all the initial minutes and all those books.
A.M. Tamis: The original minutes of the AHEPA in Queensland and many Kytherians mentioned that.
Mr. George Poulos: So we have also on the website; two important people. One of them was the former leader of the National Party in Australia, N.S.W. George Souris; he has made quite an important contribution, I think also his father was an original AHEPAN and the other one is a member of the Upper House of the State Parliament of N.S.W. and his name is Jim Samios.
A.M. Tamis: Have we exhausted the list of contributors and politicians and businessmen and industrialists?
Mr. George Poulos: I think if we have a look on the web, they will be others that I haven’t mentioned here. We haven’t lounged the contribution of Americans to Kythera, but I still believe that they will come to our knowledge other people who have contributed very significantly. Because not everybody is that concerned that other people know what they are doing.
Its only through the website really that we gone back and looked over contributions. I wouldn’t know that Mitchell Notaras donated 1.1 million dollars, which is a significant contribution. Mitchell is not that kind of person who wishes to advertise what he is doing. He is doing things on a regular basis, for example the art teacher from Kythera said I couldn’t teach properly because I don’t have any materials. So Nick went on the phone to London and said I want all these materials to get over to the art teacher. That’s how it happened.
A.M. Tamis: Thank you very much for your kindness and the information you have contributed to us, thank you.

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