About the Polish reaction to the Soviet Invasion in 1939

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About the Polish reaction to the Soviet Invasion in 1939

Post by Domen123 » Sun Sep 26, 2010 1:44 pm

Backstage of the Polish decision to withdraw to Romania and to avoid resisting the Red Army:



Soviet ambassador - Sharonov - leaves Poland and goes back to the USSR after ensuring the Polish foreign minister Joseph Beck, that "the attitute of the USSR towards Poland is friendly and the USSR is going to remain neutral".

Of course, as we know today, Sharonov lied.


The official note of Vyacheslav Molotov to Polish ambassador Waclav Grzybowski:
Vyacheslav Molotov wrote: "The Polish-German war has revealed the internal bankruptcy of the Polish state. In ten days of warfare Poland had lost all of its industrial and cultural centers. Warsaw, as a Polish capital city, does not exist any more. The Polish government has disintegrated and does not show signs of life. This means that the Polish state and its government have in fact ceased to exist. That is why all agreements signed between Poland and the USSR have lost their power. Poland, left to fend for herself, became an easy field for all kinds of dangerous and sudden actions, which may become a threat for the USSR. That's why the Soviet government, which until now was keeping neutrality, cannot in the face of these facts continue to display a neutral position.

The Soviet government cannot also stay indifferent towards the fact, that the cognate population of Ukrainian and Belarusian origin inhabiting the Polish territory is defenceless and has been left to fend for themselves.

Thus the Soviet government had ordered the High Command of the Red Army, to order its forces to cross the border and take care of the lives and the property of the population of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus.

The Soviet government also intends to take all measures aimed at liberating the Polish nation from the destructive war, into which its unreasonable leaders have pushed it, and enabling it to live in peace."
The official response of Polish ambassador Waclav Grzybowski for the note of Vyacheslav Molotov:
Waclaw Grzybowski wrote: "Any of the arguments used in the note to justify the turning of Polish-Soviet agreements into just pieces of paper, does not withstand reasonable criticism. According to my knowledge the Head of the Polish state and the Government of Poland are present on the Polish territory. The sovereignity of any state exists as long as soldiers of the Regular Army of this particular state are fighting. This, what the note claims about the situation of national minorities in Poland, is a nonsense. In our previous discussions, you, Mr. Molotov, was repeatedly talking about the Slavonic Solidarity. Where is your Slavonic Solidarity now?

During the World War territories of Serbia and Bulgaria were occupied, yet nobody entertained a thought that due to this fact commitments towards these states should be considered as invalid. Napoleon Bonaparte captured Moscow, but as long as Kutuzov's Army was existing, it was considered that Russia still exists. Warsaw is still defending. The Polish State still exists."
The "General Directive" of marschall Rydz-Smigly from 17.09.1939:
Edward Rydz-Smigly wrote: "The Soviets had entered. I command to withdraw to Romania and Hungary along the shortest possible routes. Do not fight against the Bolsheviks, unless they attack first or try to disarm our units. The task of Warsaw and cities, which were to defend against the Germans - without changes. Cities to which the Bolsheviks will approach, should negotiate with them concerning the departure of garrisons to Romania or Hungary.

Marschall Edward Rydz-Smigly, General HQ of the Polish Army, 10:00 p.m., 17.09.1939."
That's why only some units chose (or were forced to - by attitude of Soviet soldiers) to fight against the Soviets - the other ones were defeated by surprise or negotiated trying to induce the Soviets to let them pass to Romania (and usually negotiations were without success and Soviet forces were capturing those units).

The first decision of Marschall Rydz-Smigly was to fight firmly against the Soviet Invasion.

Polish Chief of Staff in September of 1939 - Waclaw Stachiewicz - writes about this:
"It was just very hard to accept the idea, that the new aggressor was going to capture our territory without resistance. That his unprecedented, treacherous deed was going to remain without an armed response from our side."
But while hours were passing, further and further reports from the new frontline about the tremendous strength and numbers of Soviet invasion forces were arriving at the Polish General Headquarters, especially from the direction of Lwow and Stanislawow. The new idea appeared in the Polish General HQ, that the Soviet invasion completely scratches through all Polish defensive abilities until the start of the French offensive in the West.

One of Polish staff officers stated:
"We have to die here."
Marschall Rydz-Smigly responded:
"But what will be Poland's profit from our death? We have to form a new army in France. We have to keep fighting. These officers, who are present here - this is a precious cadre, essential for these goals."
Then, after two conferences with members of the Polish government (the first in Kolomyja with participation of Polish Prime Minister Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski and the Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck, the second in Kuty with participation of all these persons as well as the Polish president prof. Ignacy Mościcki), the decision was taken to withdraw to Romania and marschall Rydz-Smigly issued the whole bunch of detailed orders to all units with which he had got direct contact, as well as announced by the Radio Station of the General HQ of the Polish Army and by intermediary radio stations, his "General Directive" which was already quoted above.

And here is the list of detailed orders issued by Rydz-Smigly and the General HQ after the Soviet Invasion:


6:30 a.m.:

An order for units of the Border Defense Corps (Korpus Ochrony Pogranicza = KOP) Regiment "Czortkow" ordering them to hold their defensive positions along the border and withdraw only if under sharp enemy pressure.

7:35 a.m.:

An order for the commander of Border Defense Corps (KOP) Regiment "Czortkow" ordering him to send parliamentarians to Soviet forces with inquiry about the character and purpose of their intervention.

8:15 a.m.:

An order for the commander of Army "Karpaty" informing him about the new situation and ordering him to transmit further orders to General Narbut-Luczynski (commander of Garrison of the city of Tarnopol) and General Jacyna-Jatelnicki (commander of Garrison of Mikulince) to put into combat readiness mode all Polish units on their defensive positions along the Seret river and put resistance against the "Bolsheviks" along this line, while all other units under command of these generals should be ordered to retreat towards the Transdniestr area.

The exact reading of this order was:
"At dawn of this day Soviet forces have crossed the state border along the line from Dniestr to Wolczyska inclusive. The Soviet forces have captured: Skala, by a Soviet cavalry regiment which advances towards Borszczow; Husiatyn - by a Soviet infantry battalion with artillery and tanks; Podwolczyska - until now exact Soviet forces not recognized.

The KOP Regiment "Czortkow" is involved in combats against enemy units and withdraws along the following line:

- battalion "Skalat" towards Trembowla
- battalion "Kopyczynce" across Czortkow and Buczacz towards Nizniow
- battalion "Borszczow" across Tluste Miasto towards Uscieszko

Mr. Marschall ordered to put into combat readiness all units which are along the Seret with task to put up resistance against the Bolsheviks along this line. Other units are ordered to withdraw towards the southern bank of the Dniestr."
Chef of Staff of General Fabrycy's Army "Karpaty" - Colonel Pstrokonski - about the Soviet invasion:
"The message about the Bolshevik attack immediately ruined all our efforts. I was depressed".
Between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.:

Captain Waclaw Chocianowicz was sent towards the bridges on the Dniestr river in order to establish contact with the Soviets and ask them about the character of their intervention.

9:35 a.m.:

An order for the commander of the defense of the Dniestr river bridge in Uscieszko ordering him to barricade the bridge and to prepare it for detonation, which should take place only in case of a massive attack of Soviet armoured units - otherwise the bridge must be defended but not destroyed.

Around 9:50 a.m.:

An order for General Jacyna-Jatelnicki, changing the previous order from 8:15 a.m. and ordering him to use all forces which hadn't yet started their withdrawal towards the Transdniestr area to put resistance against Soviet forces in their own areas.

Around Midday:

An order (phone call) from Colonel Jaklicz to Captain Chocianowicz ordering him to ensure that the bridge in Uscieszko was going to be detonated if it was going to be necessary.

0:20 p.m.:

An order for the Headquarters of Army "Karpaty" confirming previous orders from General Fabrycy received in the evening on 16.09.1939 and an order - or rather confirmation of the previous order - to hold the police, administrative authorities, railway services and postal services where they were (on the spot).

Between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m.:

General Narbut-Luczynski and Colonel Stanislaw Pelc were sent to the Headquarters of Army "Karpaty" with verbal order to withdraw the entire army behind the Romanian and Hungarian borders.

2:00 p.m.:

Same order was delivered by General Waclaw Stachiewicz to General Paszkiewicz and General Dembinski (commander of Group "Stryj") by phone.

3:30 p.m.:

An order for the High Command of Army "Karpaty" ordering them to withdraw the soldiers and the equipment to Romania, perchance to Hungary, however the Group of General Dembinski (Group "Stryj") was ordered to stay on its defensive positions and wait for the arrival of forces under command of General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, establish contact with these forces "for any price", and only then withdraw together to Hungary.

From the Diary of General Dembinski:
Day: 17.09.1939... time: 15:30... an order from the High Command to discontinue combats and to withdraw all units into the Hungarian territory. Sending reconnaissance units towards Lwow in order to establish contact with units of General K. Sosnkowski in the region of Mszana...
4:00 p.m.:

An order for all of Polish Air Force to withdraw to Romania ("fundamentally to Czerniowce airport").

4:00 p.m.:

An order for General Skuratowicz (commander of Garrison of the city of Lutsk), General Dab-Biernacki (commander of the Northern Front, consisting of Army "Modlin", Operational Group "Kruszewski" and Cavalry Operational Group "Anders") and General Kleeberg (commander of Independent Operational Group "Polesie") ordering them to withdraw to Romania.

Order was delivered via air (liaison plane).

5:00 p.m.:

Lt.Col. Dudek (commander of Group "Drohobycz") - was informed by General Dembinski (commander of Group "Stryj") about the Soviet Invasion:
(...) the eastern neighbour has crossed the border and is now in the distance of about 30 kilometres from your forces - any combats against his forces should be avoided - fight only when his forces attack first.
This order had to be repeated by Gen. Dembinski TWO MORE TIMES - because Lt. Col. Dudek COULD NOT BELIEVE in this fact at first.

6:30 p.m.:

An order to the Communication Center in Bobrka ordering them to establish communications with General Kazimierz Sosnkowski and to deliver him the order of withdrawing to Hungary as quickly as possible (together with forces of Dembinski).

7:00 p.m.:

General Milan-Kamski returned back to Kolomyja from his inspection of defensive lines along the Dniestr river. In the face of new situation (Soviet Invasion) General Waclaw Stachiewicz (the Chief of Staff of the Polish High Command) released him from his previous task (organizing defensive lines along the Dniestr river) and ordered him to withdraw behind the Romanian border.

General Milan-Kamski wrote about the order of "not fighting against the Soviets" received from Stachiewicz in Kolomyja:
"(...) In a longer argument the Chef of Staff of the High Command explained to me the reasons of this order, declaring that the Commander In Chief, not seeing any possibility of efficiently resisting against the Soviet armies, wants to extract as many military forces as he can to continue combats on another front in the future and that the decision has been taken to cross the border. Therefore he concluded - if the Russians are not attacking and are not disturbing our movement towards the border, we should not fight against them, unless in case of a necessary self-defence if they attack first - and such orders concerning this decision were issued to units."
8:00 p.m.:

An order for the HQ of Group "Stryj" (delivered by phone) to withdraw all units behind the Hungarian border without waiting for forces of General Kazimierz Sosnkowski. It was a consequence of a personal decision taken by marschall Rydz-Smigly.

9:30 p.m.:

An order for Colonel Rudka in Stanislawow to deliver to General Dembinski the order of Marschall Rydz-Smigly, ordering him to carry out destructions in the Petroleum Basin before withdrawing to Hungary as well as to deliver an order of withdrawing to Hungary also to the commander of Polish 10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade, Colonel Stanislaw Maczek.

10:00 p.m.:

Confirmation of previous orders from 9:30 p.m. for Colonel Rudka in Stanislawow.

11:00 p.m.:

Ordering a liason pilot to deliver an order informing about the Soviet invasion and ordering him to withdraw to Hungary to General Kazimierz Sosnkowski (pilot took off on 18.09.1939 in the morning).

9:30 p.m.:

The "General Directive" of marschall Rydz-Smigly was enciphered and on 9:40 p.m. it was received by Lt.Col. Mieczyslaw Zaleski, who then transmitted it by radio stations.

At 10:00 p.m. the "General Directive" (which was already quoted above) was transmitted via radio:
Marschall Edward Rydz-Smigly wrote: "The Soviets had entered. I command to withdraw to Romania and Hungary along the shortest possible routes. Do not fight against the Bolsheviks, unless they attack first or try to disarm our units. The task of Warsaw and cities, which were to defend against the Germans - without changes. Cities to which the Bolsheviks will approach, should negotiate with them concerning the departure of garrisons to Romania or Hungary.

Marschall Edward Rydz-Smigly, General HQ of the Polish Army, 10:00 p.m., 17.09.1939."



In the night from 17.09.1939 to 18.09.1939 and in the morning on 18.09.1939 the Polish Government and the Polish High Command (with Marschall Rydz-Smigly) crossed the Romanian Border.

This was one day after the Soviet Invasion and only DUE TO and BECAUSE OF the Soviet Invasion.


Why England and France didn't declare war on the USSR after September 17?

The best reasons were presented by the Soviet ambassadors themselves:

Soviet ambassador in London, Ivan Mayski, wrote in his diary on 17.09.1939:
Ivan Mayski wrote: "(...) What will be the response of England to our actions? Can England declare war on us? (...) Will England break diplomatic relations with us? I don't think so. Such a policy would overtax England's strength. Inversely, England will avoid everything, which could strengthen the connections between the USSR and Germany. Thus I expect a harsh protest note, a harsh speech of the Prime Minister in the Parliament, an anti-Soviet campaign launched by British press, but nothing more."

Also Soviet ambassador in Paris, Jakov Suric, sent such a message to Moscow on 19.09.1939:
Jakov Suric wrote: "(...) Yet now with some dose of certainty it can be said, that the French government is not drawing any 'conclusions' and will keep an anticipative position, trying to do everything to avoid provoking the USSR and to prevent the even greater Soviet-German rapprochement."

Other claims were just excuses, to justify the factual reasons of lack of declaration of war.

But in fact, behind that courtain of propaganda, soon after the Soviet Invasion Britain started - together with France - to plan a war against the USSR - but it was to be a surprise attack, and only then declaration of war would follow.

You can read about those British plans of invading the USSR in this book:

"Operation Pike: Britain Versus the Soviet Union 1939-1941" by Patrick R. Osborn:

http://books.google.pl/books?id=39Q6uCj ... &q&f=false

http://www.questia.com/library/book/ope ... osborn.jsp



One more thing - another reason why France and Britain was "quite happy" about the Soviet Invasion, was their concern about Romania. France and Britain were afraid that immediately after defeating Poland, Germans will invade and conquer Romania. And Romania had a lot of crude oil, as we know - which Britain and France didn't want to fall into German hands. That's why after the Soviet invasion, Britain and France hoped that maybe Soviet forces would "isolate" and "cut off" Romania from Germany, from German military forces. But those were stupid dreams - Romania joined Axis anyway and Germany quickly gained access to Romanian resources. Not mentioning that Germany and the USSR were allies and Germany was receiving large amounts of resources (including also food) from the USSR - as is commonly known, by the way -, practically until 22.06.1941.

Another thing is that Britain and France should have helped Poland to defend the "Romanian Bridgehead" by sending them supplies via Romania, and then maybe German advance would have been halted by Polish forces, before entering Romania. Britain and France simply abandoned and "crossed out" their ally too early - they "crossed out" their Polish ally before he was defeated, when he was still resisting the German invasion.

This was their mistake. And France paid for that mistake in 1940, Britain also.

It is also true, that Britain and France were not obliged to help Poland in case of Soviet invasion.

But as I wrote, this fact was rather one of "diplomatic excuses" than real reasons of not helping Poland against the Soviets. Real reasons were mentioned above:

1) Fear about the even greater strengthening of the Soviet-German alliance and co-operation.
2) Lack of real strength to fight against the USSR and Germany combined - these countries were much more powerful than France and Britain.
3) Concerns about the fate of Romania (what was Germany going to do with Romania after defeating Poland).
4) Poland was yet "crossed out" - it had already fulfilled its task - being a "cannon meat" for Germany, to win some time for Western Allies.

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Re: About the Polish reaction to the Soviet Invasion in 1939

Post by mconrad » Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:56 am

Other reasons for Britain and France not to declare war on the Soviet Union:

If Britain declared war, the USSR could promptly occupy the British sphere of influence in Persia, thus depriving the western allies of a major oil production region. (And get uncomfortably close to cutting the Suez Canal.)

For practical purposes, how could France's and Britain's armed forces effectively engage Soviet armed forces, and vice versa? There was no common border between these countries.

Foresight. Any well-informed and intelligent French or British leader and his advisors would surely be thinking, "How long can an alliance between Hitler's Germany and Stalin's USSR really last?" A nasty situation today, but sooner or later...

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Re: About the Polish reaction to the Soviet Invasion in 1939

Post by Glyndower » Sun Dec 19, 2010 8:38 am

Aid for Poland through Rumania belongs in the realm of fantasy. It first of all suposes that Rumania would be prepared to risk war with Germany by siding with the allies something Rumania had no intention of going. Secondly given the transportation links through Rumania to Poland a large scale supply operation would have been very difficult. I believe the railway line from Rumania to Kolomiya was only single track and easiy cut by the Germans and the roads were poor leading into eastern Poland. Thirdly why would the allies start shiping large ammounts of aid to Rumania when they thought Germany would overrun Poland within six months and any aid sent would be lost. Fourthly the guarantee to Poland had nothing to do with preserving Polish independence it was about the balance of power in Europe. Poland's role in allied strategic thinking was to tie up the Germans for a few months enabling the UK and France to prepare in the west for a long war.

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Re: About the Polish reaction to the Soviet Invasion in 1939

Post by Domen123 » Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:05 am

I believe the railway line from Rumania to Kolomiya was only single track
Line Kolomiya - Chernivtsi was single track but had capacity of 18 pairs of trains per day.
and easiy cut by the Germans
How exactly would they cut it easy? Luftwaffe? It was also easy to repair.
Thirdly why would the allies start shiping large ammounts of aid
They already did - but depends what you consider as large ammounts.

Many ships with supplies were already enroute to Poland at the time of the Soviet invasion - supplies from France were being transported by "Rose Sciaffino", "Warszawa", "Oksywie", "Katowice", "Pulaski", "Victo" and at least 11 other ships. Supplies from Great Britain were being transported for example by "Clan Menzies", "Lassel", "Robur VIII" and "Lwow". As you can see many of these ships were Polish. But what did these ships transport?

For example "Robur VIII" was transporting British planes for Poland. "Oksywie" was transporting explosives from France (mainly picric acid - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picric_acid - up to 1000 tons). "Lwow" was transporting 326 tons of rubber, 97 tons of bullet shells, 4 artillery guns cal. 6 inches, 400 boxes of artillery ammo cal. 6 inches, 100 boxes of shells for cal. 6 inches ammo. "Lassel" was transporting 15 Hurricanes, 1 Spitfire, at least 7 (up to 36) Fairey Battles, 6,000 tons of bombs, 2,750,000 rounds of ammunition (probably artillery ammo), 112 Browning HMGs, 150 parachutes and some motor transporters (9 bomb tractors and 21 trailers among them). "Clan Menzies" was transporting at least 15 (up to 25) Fairey Battles, 5,000 Hotchkiss HMGs (Hotchkiss M1909 Benet-Mercie machine guns), 15,000,000 rounds of rifle / MG ammunition (.303 ammunition) and 500,000 anti-gas masks.

On 08.09.1939 French ambassador in Poland - general Faury - sent a message to France with Polish request for the most urgent supplies - this included 250 calibre 75mm guns, 100 calibre 105mm guns and 15 calibre 155mm guns.

The first French transport was to reach Romanian port in Galati very soon, because on 20.09.1939. This first transport was transporting 50 R-35 tanks, 150,000 rounds of artillery ammo, 60 artillery guns calibre 105mm (+ full equipment for 15 batteries), French fighter planes, military tractors, trucks, radio stations, picric acid and other war materials.

According to another source (Czeslaw Grzelak in his book "Kampania Polska 1939"; he quotes: PIA New York, Weinstein's archive, v. XVIII, c. 1, account of lieutenant colonel M. Zimnal - as his primary source) - this first French transport consisted of as many as 17 (!) ships (as you can see I mentioned only several ships with supplies from France above - I don't know what were the names of the remaining ones, if this information is true) and it was to reach the Romanian port in Galati not on 20.09.1939, but between 17 and 20.09.1939 (thus, not later than on 20.09.1939).

According to the same source this first transport was also carrying 20 French planes, considerable amount of artillery ammunition (probably calibre 105mm - for these 60 guns cal. 105mm) and also some TNT apart from picric acid.

No of these ships managed to reach Romanian ports before the Soviet Invasion of Poland. After Allies received information about the Soviet Invasion of Poland all of these transports were stopped and directed somehwere else.

So all transports were recalled on 18.09.1939, some of these supplies were delivered to Turkey.

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Re: About the Polish reaction to the Soviet Invasion in 1939

Post by Glyndower » Sat Dec 25, 2010 11:29 am

The Rumanian Government signed an economic treat with Germany on March 23rd 1939. From then on it was half in Germany’s pocket and it would not be long before it was fully in Germany’s pocket.

On September 12 Ribbentrop demanded a number of things from Rumania. These were that it would not grant asylum to the Polish Government but would intern the Polish Government and that it would disarm and intern all Polish soldiers, and no passage for any war material to Poland.

Rumania knew Poland was doomed because it had knowledge of the Soviet German division of Eastern Europe; it was never going to annoy Germany. The British Minister in Rumania Reginald Hoare was told by the Rumanian President on September 12 about the agreement.

Taken from “The War Hitler Won – Nicholas Bethel” a very informative book.

The German air force operating from bases in Slovakia or central Poland could easily have cut a Railway line. Also road and rail traffic would have been shot to pieces as they had air supremacy. I believe they did a very efficient job of destroying road and rail communications in September. I did once know a Polish man who had been mobilised in Kolomyia and moved west by train. After a while they got of the train and were told to go home and he walked back as the line was cut. He never saw a German I remember him telling me.


Because of the state of semi mobilisation Poland was in prior to September it was heading for bankruptcy according to the Polish finance Minister Kwiatkowski. On April 26 he told Szembek that unless a British loan was forthcoming Poland was likely to become bankrupt.

On June 28 it was agreed to grant credits to Poland to purchase British military equipment but no cash loan. On July 1 it was decided to grant 8m in military credits. Also on July 1 the head of the Polish military mission to Britain Rayski reported that no progress was being made on the purchase of munitions. It seems he could not get an answer from the British on something as simple as the calibre of their artillery. The British were apparently hoping the Poles would get aid from the French or the Soviets. The French were better disposed towards Poland on the question of aid. Aid for Poland was not a British priority and any aid was going to have to fit in with British military needs.

From Soviet and East European Studies – Poland and the Eastern Front

The British seem to have been hoping to tie a cash loan to Poland to economic concessions from Poland to Britain. I presume that the aid on the ships was either paid for by Poland’s rapidly shrinking currency reserves or the British had allowed the credits they were giving Poland to be used. I have no idea of what the French were supplying. With Britain stalling on aid, Poland heading for bankruptcy and Rumania frightened to offend Germany it was looking very dark indeed for the Poles on the question of aid.

I often muse on what would have happened if Hitler had just kept up pressure on Poland by maybe sealing the borders. Poland was almost totally dependent on Gdynia and Danzig. The Germans could probably have made importing and exporting through Danzig problematical leaving Gdynia. Threatening to close the Polish Corridor would probably have forced the Poles to stay semi mobilised and as we now know that would have brought about the bankruptcy of Poland. They may then have made the concessions Hitler wanted and what would have happened next?

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Re: About the Polish reaction to the Soviet Invasion in 1939

Post by tobysr » Sun Aug 07, 2011 3:37 am

Hi all, I'm new to all this, but I have a great interest in this subject. I was wondering if this is the right forum to ask what Polish regiments and corps were sent to the eastern front to counter the Russian invasion as Poland had a great commitment to the western front.

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