#22 | Birth Into Being: Interview with Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova

May 6, 2020

Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova is one of the pioneers of the Conscious Birth Movement. From 1982 to 1989, she was one of the original organizers of the birth camps at the Black Sea in Russia, where many women gave birth in shallow lagoons in the presence of wild dolphins. If you've taken a HypnoBirthing class, you may have seen this in Elena's movie, Birth As We Know It. Elena is revered as a spiritual midwife to thousands of families and professionals alike. Elena has been training new facilitators in her method, Birth Into Being, since 2004, and her graduates are now teaching her method in all major languages across 22 countries. The key focus of Birth Into Being is to prevent birth complications through healing on the conscious and subconscious levels. Elena was featured in the UN-sponsored book Force Such As the World Has Never Known: Women Creating Change, as one of the 30 Most Influential Grassroots Women in the World. She received the Legendary Leader Award and has been a keynote speaker at countless conferences.

Elena's specialty is in the field of limbic imprinting. In this episode, Elena explains how she's prepared thousands of couples for blissful birthing through her birth-preparation programs, and shares her perspective on how the very world we live in has the opportunity to heal through the way in which we birth our babies.

Birth Into Being - Elena's Website
Birth As We Know it - Video Link
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Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

View Episode Transcript

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

Today on the podcast we have one of the women I certainly consider one of the most remarkable I've ever met over the years, Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova. Elena is one of the pioneers of the conscious birth movement. From 1982 to 1989. She was one of the original organizers of birth camps at the Black Sea in Russia, where many women gave birth in shallow lagoons in the presence of wild dolphins. If you've taken a hypnobirthing class, you may have seen this in her movie Birth As We Know It. She's revered as a spiritual midwife to thousands of families and professionals alike. Elena has been training new facilitators in her method entitled birth into being since 2004. And her graduates are now teaching her method in all major languages across 22 countries. The key focus of birth into being is to prevent birth complications through healing on the conscious and subconscious levels. Elena was featured in the UN sponsored book for us such as the world world has never known women creating change as one of the 30 most influential grassroots women in the world. She received the legendary Leader Award and was a featured keynote speaker at countless conferences. Elena, we are so excited to have you here today. Can we just start off by having you let our listeners know a little bit about you? You started off as a theatre actress when you were a young woman in the 80s. And you've made this transition into the work you're doing today. So can we just start off with you telling us a bit about that?

Thank you.

I love this opportunity to speak with you. And you asked a very big question. At some point while being an actress and theatre in Russia, I got disenchanted was my profession, because the limitations of what I could do what I could say, or very apparent at some point and I was looking for some different meaning and started thinking about the greater picture. And I met a person called, who was promoting what a birth, you get your kowski. And talking with him, I could see that he had a very valid point. He was talking about the correlation between the way we're born and the way we live. It wasn't so much about what a birth, it wasn't so much about the actual birth. It was my desire to have a meaningful life that it finally clicked in that this is it. This is that shortest cut through that we can really change the quality of life of the species is humankind. If we change how we make people We can change the way we'll live. Later I discovered that there is this mechanism called limbic imprinting that our nervous system is wired to absorb and remember all of our sensory experiences from the moment of conception through gestation birth, early formative years, until basically we get a strong sense of identity. our nervous system has this innate ability to absorb, register and memorize non cognitively. All of our experiences limbic system of the brain is formed about halfway through just station four to five months. Deeper research shows that we actually somehow in a different part of the brain, in the reptilian brain that forms first will register even pre sensory experiences. The fact remains that humans were using that mechanism of imprinting for thousands of years. Look at the war animals, the circus animals, the household animals, the way we train wild animals that we, we couldn't really make them work for us directly, right? We had to wait for their babies to bring them up. So that fact that we've been exploiting that mechanism with animals is a known fact in history. But the fact that humans have the same mechanism of imprinting somehow was not very well researched until quite recently, maybe 2530 years. But knowing about it as one thing, doing something about it is a whole other thing. They The good news comes from the fact that we're not just our physical body. We're not just our fingerprints or color of our eyes, even though it stays there, we can actually do a lot of things to expand the range of frequencies that we would be able to function in and communicate with others and create a deeper connection with with ourselves. If our limbic imprint was negative, if we had some kind of traumatic experiences during our gestation, birth, few years a formative period, if it was less than blissful we were struggling with it until we decided to stop struggling, turns out that we can actually claim that remote control that in all the spiritual traditions of the world was called free will. And actually over over come the, the cage, the limbic imprint becomes the cage. It's there for a good reason. It's there as our survival mechanism because, for example, mama bear cannot send her cub to school and let the cub here honey, read the books and they will tell you how to be a bear. Right? We can't really do that. So this limbic imprint is there to allow the baby bear to absorb everything that mama bear is doing, how she eats, how she sleeps, how she hunts, what, whatever she needs to do to survive.

Now you heard about this in the Before there was all the research that we have today on the subject, so what was it? It struck you as just intuitively being onto something? What did you do from there?

Um, it's they're different. What we did, they're dependent a lot of the personality of ego, Richard kowski, who was a very powerful Siberian shaman, really it he was a seer. He was a healer. He was sharing his insights, understanding of how things work. And it's only years and years and years later that I learned English when I moved to America and realize that they're already pioneers in that field. And now there is a vast amount of research. In those days. None of it existed. And none of it was translated into Russian and Russia didn't have this area of research.

Was this all happening before you started practicing as a midwife where you were gaining this knowledge with him and then and what happened when you started practicing as a midwife and how did you incorporate this into your your practice as a midwife from what I know mostly about you is your your work in birthing babies in the Black Sea? It was it was this after this time.

It was during this time it was Yes, it was Eagles idea that we need to take birthing women closer to dolphins. It was just his fixation because when he worked with pregnant women, he was doing only one On one sessions and he was putting them into some sort of a trance with the, with some degree of feedback and he was asking them what they're seeing in that trance state. And the majority of them was reporting they were swimming with dolphins. It was just coming from this place of you know when you live next to the ocean dolphins that kind of part of the description of the world right? When you're in the dead winter in Moscow, in Russia. Dolphins are not the symbol of this romantic interspecies communication. It's just fish. You know, in those days it was dolphins. Really? Why?

Okay, and he saw this in multiple women. So can you explain because I think our listeners must be like, Wait, how did they go from talking about this to dolphins and i'd love them to know that you literally formed what you called a camp on a beach at the Black Sea where women, as you say in your movie, they were walking into the water and coming out with their babies in their arms. So can you just talk a little bit about what Tricia was asking you about, and how dolphins really played an actual role in this.

It was a process because as we didn't know, dolphins or anything about them, they didn't know us. All they knew about humans was fisheries, the fishing boats that were killing them and catching them and nets, they didn't really give too much credit to human race. So it was a process to really connect with them and that didn't happen the first year at the hole that they would be Give us any attention or respect. It was like by the middle of second year of actual deliberate effort of connecting with them and asking them to forgive us that we are not those people who are killing them that there are different kinds of people that were really asking their their guidance and cooperation. It was hours and hours and hours in humble meditation and generating so much love and inquiry to to connect with us because here we are, we're doing something that we know nothing about. When you call me a midwife, I never actually became a licensed professional midwives because there was absolutely nowhere to go to Call for it, you know, we I, I could have gone to actual medical school. But in the first year when we had a medical doctor there, you could said no more doctors allowed, because it took so much energy to neutralize his panic attacks and his anxiety and he was so loaded with all the pictures of pathology and what if what can go wrong and he was just so toxic that we had to ask him to live. And it was a very conscious choice not to include medical professionals into what we were doing there. For us. It was always the spiritual practice, we had to basically tune out everything that was not in alignment with this blissful denial. You know, that's when I understood that there is two types of denial. There is a dangerous denial when there is an elephant in the room and we don't talk about it and, and it's something that suppresses the very life force that doesn't allow us to breathe really and feel alive. But then there is another type of denial that is actually our magic wand when we deny a specific range of frequencies to affect our beautiful future. So we can summarize that there is denial. Yep. And denial already, like denial before and after.

We have to go into the denial of negative impact on on our present.

So right and we're That's where the birth preparation comes in.


Elena, can you tell us a little bit about what the culture of birthing in Russia was like, at this time and a little bit more detail about these birth experiences in the Black Sea and how they sort of contrasted?

Well, the situation with the birthing in the state facilities in Russia at that point was a pure nightmare. And it was just terrifying. It was so bad. It was humiliating. It was unsafe to be there. When I came to America a few years after I started doing what I'm doing. I somebody asked me how come in Russia those ideas spread so fast and so easy and in America is just not going very well. And I jokingly said, well, it's not bad enough in America. Because in Russia, it was bad enough that women who have only heard a glimpse of an alternative that there was a way of avoiding going into one of those facilities, they would just grab and run with it because it was more terrifying to go with the conventional model than go into the great unknown. And now with the what we have right now, the situation with the virus we have bad enough, that bad enough is kicking in. So now we have the numbers of home births skyrocketing all over the world, in the numbers that we've never ever seen in our lifetime.

Very true. Very true. Elena, Can you remind me again and our listeners what yours we're talking about here in Russia and then give us a few specifics of the hospital birth at that time?

Well, the specifics are terrifying and it's always been like that. In the history of Soviet Russia, the first floor of the birth house would be lined up with hundreds of women coming in the morning to have an abortion without any anesthetics, so there was a lot of screaming going on on the first floor, the second floor all the women would be laying up to 10 women in a room with one toilet, the end of the long hallway, narrow bed and a little nightstand. And next bed next bend a chair away basically. And and it's just the it's not even that it's the attitude Women were abused, and there is no such thing as informed consent. Everything was... no men were allowed even in the building nevermind to see their wife to hug her. It would be always a big crowd of man in front of the windows and women's faces in the windows just looking for her husband and you can't even tell because all the women are in the same gown and pail scared and just trying to pin to mind to their husbands something that they want to say theirs. And the third floor was all the babies, hundreds of babies just stored all you know, together, and obviously away from their mothers away from their mothers given sugary water with tranquilizers.

To keep them quiet, basically the babies were kept there for five days.

Without mothers. This is basically the situation in Russia we have now it's generation after generation of babies that were taken, whisked away from the mother, right after birth and given sugary water with tranquilizers for five days and you said this is still currently the way babies are born.

It they don't have that much facilities now. It's not five days, maybe two or three days. And it's only about 65 70% of births happening in those facilities. The rest of the population is trying to reproduce and use birth houses that are Offering anything and everything you want a state of the art birth facility, and it's very expensive. So sometimes a couple has to pay for years and years and years to cover the birth experience. But, you know, you've got to choose. They couldn't have thought they were doing the best thing for anyone, could they? That's the thing that you don't have the right to ask question or to ask for something or express your needs. Like if a pregnant woman gets into that conveyor, of a birth house. She is worthless, she is faceless. She doesn't have she has a tag and basically it's like a prison. It was heartless, most cool place that that women are trying to avoid by any means growth. up, I basically didn't even know anybody who had second child.

So this helps to explain why an alternative was so appealing. But it also helps us to understand why it wasn't so easy as as walking into the water and walking back out with the baby in our arms. It was all about the preparation and the healing from generations of birth trauma. Exactly. And that was limbic Lee imprinted within the women. And what you were working so hard on is finding the ways for these couples, including the partners to heal that way for carrying that into their birth experience. So can you tell us about that part of this?

So at some point it it became apparent that somehow in order to change the way women give birth, something needs to happen, because pregnant women are coming to have their sessions with a good absolutely refined of giving birth? Well, they were just as traumatized from their own birth from their mother's birth from everybody else's birth that they heard about and we're hiring highly suggestible creatures, humans. So if we hear from all of our girlfriends and relatives, how horrible it is, we don't really have a way of looking forward to it. And what happened next is that eager with all his psychic powers, started looking at where does it start? Like in order to undo something, you need to look at it to understand what it is and where where did it start? So in his sessions, he would just sit in front of the woman for two Three hours and waive his arm in front of her and with his eyes closed, and just tell her her story. And he would kind of bring it out of her, then it would go into what happened to her mother to her grandmother, sometimes he would unfold the whole lineage. And I would be in the room with them on hundreds of occasions, and I would be watching in on how her whole demeanor would change how the way the woman will, would walk out of the room was a different person than walked in two, three hours ago. And what it was doing, he was kind of neutralizing the impact of all those stories. On her cue was able to disconnect her from the drama free her from that inheritance that was handed down to her. That was not really her. But it was kind of she absorbed that with the mother's milk as they say, as we all did. We all absorb all our history for many, many generations past, when we're just dating, when we're young. We don't have any censorship mechanism. We just take what's given. And that's what limbic imprint is. But then when we mature when we unfold, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, then when we decide that now is the moment when The drama of my lineage doesn't have to continue to my children. Just think about the history of humankind. It's bloody violent history of wars, domestic violence of all kinds of abuse of the sacred feminine. Women were not even treated as people until quite recently, in the history of humankind, women were treated as property. Women were powerless, voiceless, like a piece of furniture is something we have to have in the house when we grow up, right. And the the sacredness of our people making was completely in the dark ages. It was treated as something that we just have to somehow you know, endure and just just something really horrible will happen and then the new human being appears. But this is really against the nature of the intelligence of the life force. Because we have now in medical textbooks that women are unable to give birth themselves, that they have to be helped. The baby's body has to be mechanically or chemically extracted out of the mother's body. Oh, come on.

Really? I heard a woman say once that her doctor actually said this to her. A women were never meant to give birth vaginally.

Well, that is Yeah, that is his imprint that is actually in writing in medical textbooks that some guy wrote, you know, women are not writing those textbooks because no one within that world writes some such nonsense. Yeah. But this is exactly the approach of medical profession prevalent all over the world and the undoing of this the undoing of this thinking, How many? How many decades does it take? How many centuries does it take? I mean, it's, you know, there's movement in the right direction, but it is so profoundly imprinted.

We'll see how long does it take the virus to shut down our civilization? Basically, I was actually talking about it. 20 years ago, 30 years ago, I was talking about exactly that if we rely so heavily on professional help, what would happen if that professional help is not available? We have to know how to procreate without mechanical and chemical help of some guy in a mask face, that this culture that we're on In that distrusts birth, is out there. But the real problem is when we believe it when we buy into it, and it's never going to change on its own, it's only going to change when we change when we start demanding, otherwise when we start seeking elsewhere, because that system is there, but it can't exist without us, the pregnant women buying into it and becoming compliant.

Absolutely. There is. I gave up on trying to go after convincing doctors and politicians I just decided to put all my focus and energy on educating women. That's why I made the movie because it can go much further and much faster than I can in person. We have the capacity to activate the innate knowledge that didn't come through our own birth but exists in our species for hundreds of thousands of years. So the fact that you and I are talking right now means that our DNA memory contains that survival mechanism that our ancestors had what it takes to not die. With all the turmoils all the hardships, all the challenges that life was throwing at them. They survived. We have every single cell in our body has almost two yards of DNA strand. It's absolutely phenomenal mystery that we know nothing about No matter how much we can think that we know a lot that our science is advanced. Try again. It's Yeah, all this mystery is in there. So this is what we need to draw on. This is what we need to call forth in order to activate our knowledge about graceful peace, ecstatic delivery of the next baby that we are going to have. So Elena, how does healing happen?

They need to find out all the different ways that they can shift internally on their own. And what kind of help is available around. There are people doing this work doing incredible work of educating, helping pregnant women. One thing I want to say for sure is that whatever you do, needs to activate the cortex, the limbic and reptilian brain at the same time with the same intensity. The cortex is our cognitive function, our ability to be rational, logical, responsible, and adult right? Then there is reptilian part of the brain. It's our body physiology that's what makes our breathing our digestion that governs the pumping of the blood in our veins. That's the part that opens the cervix, that's the part that actually makes, makes the baby that that's what allows a woman to get pregnant or doesn't allow a woman to get pregnant. And the limbic part of the brain it's like a set of chambers. That's the part of the brain responsible for our emotions and sensory experiences. So, in the fully functioning body, all three parts are working as a team they're working together to to stay focused and achieve the desirable result. If, for example, I decide something my body is providing the energy and stamina to achieve it. And my emotions are actually inspiring me to want to move in that direction. This is how they work as a team than normal state is a absolute divorce of all three parts. I want one thing, I do another thing and I want something else. It's when all the parts of our beingness are working against each other. That's counterproductive. That's when we don't move anywhere. And if we're going into talk therapy, we're just engaging the cortex. If we're going to yoga or just go for a walk or take a bath. It's just reptilian brain addressing the body, the function of physiology, if we are doing something with our emotions, aspect it's disengages the body and the cortex. So whatever practice you choose, it needs to employ all three parts. So they will create a new reference point in the nervous system. No matter how we label them, there is thoughts, there is emotions and then there is physiology that needs to work together in order to achieve in order to create magical beautiful experience for yourself because everything else is going to be lacking something.

It sounds to me like you're explaining what a lot of people refer to as the state of flow. Like when a person is in their flow, when everything is just firing together the way it should when you're sort of at like your maximum level of energy and inspiration and creativity and, and confidence and that's The place where women need to go when they're having a baby. Exactly.

Imagine the difference when a woman gives birth from that place, or from a place of being terrified the mirroring was connection. And so how does a woman work? Like what are some specific things that you can tell women to do to one get to that place and to recognize and know and trust when they are in that place?

Well, there is a lot of help available. And there is a lot of things that she can do on her own just with her own intention, and research. One reason why I have 40 of those processes in my program, because I want not to leave any rocks and turn because we have to deal with our person, not our own birth trauma is the main source of complications at birth, but then Our mother's history, the grandmother's history, our lineage. What happened there, we need to do the damage from the impact of those situation. Then there is the father of the baby, who also has his breast trauma, his mother's breast trauma in his living side of the family. So then there is all the complexity of socio economical situation that are affecting her, then the sexual trauma is a very big one. Anything has to do with this portal through which the baby's going to come out, plays a big part. So we need to address the sexual history of the woman and the father of the baby because he might have some dramatic experience in his his sexual history that is also part of the equation basically, the birthing field. There's a cauldron. It's a spinning vortex of creation. So everyone who is involved there, drama is influencing. And so we kind of need to weed out all of those bits and pieces. So, one of the main thing is also the woman's relationship with herself. How much of herself she's actually embodying because if she's just nominally present, maybe she's maybe physically present and mentally present. But is she emotionally present for herself? For her life for her partner for her baby? Is she able to really connect on soul to soul level or there is some trauma in her past that is preventing her from ability to connect. It's not like she doesn't want And she, she may be one set with all her being, but is just there is the the the rock blocking the exit of that cave, the conscious mind the emotional aspect and the physiology they all are equal. Neither one of them is less important. In the eastern tradition we have to get out of the body to feel good. In the Western spirituality we have to die in order to feel good. It's like body's viewed as an obstacle. But you can't give birth from that place. That belief is removing the very magical journey of the body of procreating. When a woman becomes the Creator. That's the greatest mystery there is and overlooking it and treating it taking it for granted. never paid off. The body is our absolute absolute grace of gifts we have to honor and respect and love, that amazing body for its ability for for all the the senses that we have, you know, I actually started counting the census that we have I counted 209. So where are they all?

They're all on my website.

Where are they within us? Everywhere I listed them all. Look, I have a list of a description of our sensory apparatus. When we were told in school that we have five senses. That's a highway robbery. And we have a lot to teach our children because most of the senses require activation because they were dormant in As they were dormant in our parents in all the ancestry that we can remember, it was not safe to have sensors activated because the blood history of humankind did not leave too much room for us to be sensitive, we would be overwhelmed and terrified. Exactly, exactly. So we have to in order to survive, we have to go numb. So now is the time to claim our exquisite, absolutely exquisite sensory apparatus and help our children activate all of the capacity that they're capable of. Muscles atrophy with when we don't use them. So because we did not know to train our senses, we lost them telepathy, empathy, nociception, electroception, proprioception, some of them, there are no names like for example, the sense that we train We deliberately teach ourselves to recognize that sensation that we need to go to the bathroom, for example, you know, it's a sense that we train our children to act upon. But we don't like the sense what do we call it that I need to urinate or I need to poo? You know, that's kind of Yeah.

But yeah, it is a it's a sense.

Elena, if a woman's mother if a pregnant woman's mother had a beautiful birth, let's say she came into the world through a really positive way. Does that indicate that the healing has already happened?

Yes, okay.

She resets it her mother reset it. So yes, that's the magic of births. Beautiful births, brings healing not only for the future generations, but back. seven generations back it It basically liberates the the whole line.

It goes, it heals back I only meant did it we did it indicate her daughter would have that part activated appropriately but it heals going back in what sense?

In every sense, everything is connected. Everything is connected with this virus is helping us understand how deeply were connected. And it's not only linear connection, like horizontal connections like the bond has been broken like it's it's multi dimensional connection to and this multi dimensional connection exists within thefemale lineage. When one woman steps up and breaks the spell. It freeze her ancestors from that stone I still am curious if there were just steps like it. Is it hypnosis? Is it Reiki? Is it acupuncture? Is it psychotherapy, it's all of it. I assume.

Just start somewhere anywhere you start use everything. I do something in my program, of course, that's why there is 40 processes because I use everything we move a lot. I talk a lot. But mainly it's very tactile, it's experiential. We roleplay we we make stuff up we we just, it's basically non structured flow. We as a group create the vortex and then that vortex takes everyone to where they need to go.

I so everybody's modality is different. It's It's important that you bring it to the surface.

Exactly. And different breathing techniques, a lot of touch a lot of altered states, because you can't go into that alignment of three parts of the brain, just by, I think I'm going to go into that on, it's just not going to happen because we don't have a reference point for it. In order to create that reference point. You need to go into a slightly altered state. That's where the ticket is because you need to go beyond the story, the poor me story, the idea of what your identity is the one that is afraid of something that's identity, but that's a fake identity. Joy, identity is absolutely free from fear from concerns from wars, it's blissful. That's grace and bliss is our true identity. Our bodies are reliable, resilient, strong, powerful wired. for pleasure, every cell of our skin has a pleasure receptacle.

Most of them are turned off, right? for good reason for our enjoyment and pleasure in use. But how many of women in our generation had the chance to use every one of those pleasure receptacles as with your own birth, as with the global situation with this virus, as with any complex situation in your life, like whatever challenges you're facing, stay focused on what you actually want. Please be strong in that vision of the beautiful future.

If you enjoy our podcast please take a moment to leave us a review on Apple podcasts and share a favorite episode or two. You can follow us on Instagram and Twitter @downtobirthshow or contact us and review show notes at downtobirthshow.com. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and  as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

Right now you remember absolutely everything that ever happened. every movie you saw every book you read, everything you've ever seen or was exposed to is just our ability to access it is limited because your ability to access it instantly was not activated. But the brain has absolutely immense storage, and everything is Still in there, even if somebody listening to this would say, Oh my goodness, those hippie chicks are talking about something really weird. You know, my church doesn't tell me any of that. So it should be a lie. You know, it's still, if they listened so far.

It will sprout at some point in the future.

A seed has been planted.

Yep. And maybe they were meant to hear it at this time in their lives.

Exactly. If they're listening, it means that it will work.

If you enjoyed this podcast episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood.

You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). 

To join our monthly newsletter, text “downtobirth” to 22828.

About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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