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Saving The Sumatran Tiger with Alena Bendová
Episode 14113th September 2021 • Your Positive Imprint • Catherine Praiswater
00:00:00 00:33:26

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We cannot turn back time but we can move forward with conservation and preservation. Alena Bendová is from Czech Republic where her work with Justice for Nature is rooted. One of her main projects is saving the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger in Indonesia. Due to the pandemic, conservation efforts are becoming more difficult for wildlife.

Transcripts

Catherine:

Before I begin today's show, I want to mention the very important wildlife ranger challenge September 18th in Africa.

Catherine:

Run with Rangers race for wildlife #forwildliferangers.

Catherine:

Ranger teams from 20 African countries are joining forces in the wildlife ranger challenge to support thousands of their colleagues

Catherine:

as they brace for an increase in poaching.

Catherine:

Wildlife Rangers see no relief in sight as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Africa's communities and wildlife.

Catherine:

In 2020, the wildlife ranger challenge was mobilized.

Catherine:

You can register to walk or run virtually with thousands of wildlife Rangers from across Africa along with Olympic medalists and celebrities like Alexander Draymon of Netflix's the last kingdom.

Catherine:

Donate to the fund or donate to your favorite protected area.

Catherine:

Dozens and dozens of national parks in Africa and reserves

Catherine:

are part of this global awareness campaign, fundraiser.

Catherine:

All donations will be matched by the Sheinberg relief fund.

Catherine:

This is September 18th.

Catherine:

September 18th is coming up.

Catherine:

Help our wildlife Rangers.

Catherine:

Go to wildliferangerchallenge.org.

Catherine:

Hello, this is Catherine, your host of the podcast, your positive imprint.

Catherine:

The variety show, featuring people all over the world whose positive actions are inspiring positive achievements.

Catherine:

Exceptional people rise to the challenge.

Catherine:

Music by the talented Chris Nole.

Catherine:

Check out his music and learn more about his awesome background, ChrisNole.com.

Catherine:

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram, your positive imprint.

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Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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Check out my YouTube channel, your positive imprint and my website yourpositiveimprint.com where of course you can sign up for newsletter updates, learn more about the podcast and even go shopping.

Catherine:

I have designed an eco tote bag regarding today's show justice for nature free shipping worldwide through October 5th.

Catherine:

I can certainly use your support.

Catherine:

Go to yourpositiveimprint.com

Catherine:

Your positive imprint.

Catherine:

What's your pie.

Catherine:

The declining state of affairs for our environment worldwide means that we need to come together.

Catherine:

Work together with other people and other governments.

Catherine:

We cannot turn back time but we can move forward with conservation and preservation.

Catherine:

My guest uses the word rewild to sometimes describe her initiative and that of justice for nature forest for children.

Catherine:

Alena Bendová is from Czech Republic, which is where Justice for Nature is rooted.

Catherine:

Their vision seeks a balance between human civilization and nature through active preservation of the environment and animals.

Catherine:

Alena Bendová shares her positive imprints and the organization's international vision which opens the door to the wide public to take responsibility

Catherine:

and also an active role in saving nature and animal species on the planet earth.

Alena Bendová:

We started our activities in 2009 and with project in Sumatra, in Indonesia, Sumatra island it's province north Sumatra, on the border with the, Gunung Leuser National Park or Leuser

Alena Bendová:

it was partly shooting there and there in this area, we are buying land to protect rainforest and, , rewild the areas which were Palm oil plantations or some other destroyed areas.

Alena Bendová:

And because it's on the border with the, with wilderness with primary forest, the forest and the nature it's taking the area really quickly.

Alena Bendová:

So it's really great to see that the it's actually is working that we are protecting the area that it's thriving.

Alena Bendová:

And, in this area, we have, , the land of a size, a hundred and ninety five, hectares.

Alena Bendová:

(almost 500 acres)

Alena Bendová:

And it's a private reserve Green Life.

Alena Bendová:

And in there we do , anti-poaching patrols.

Alena Bendová:

Our commando, our guys are locals Indonesians, and, some of them are former poachers actually.

Alena Bendová:

So this is a great to see that people can actually change and we can give them opportunity to make their living in a fair way in some way that the give

Alena Bendová:

So this is a, this is the part in Indonesia, the Green Life Project.

Alena Bendová:

We, of course we work with the local community wider community, and the main species the umbrella species, Sumatran tiger, critically endangered specie, and orangutans, elephants, and so on.

Alena Bendová:

The , last year we had this

Alena Bendová:

conflict with local people with tigers.

Alena Bendová:

So maybe I can talk about it later, but we just, spread our activities into this anti conflict team and resolve the situation.

Alena Bendová:

Um,

Catherine:

You mentioned orangutans and you also mentioned Palm oil.

Alena Bendová:

Yes.

Catherine:

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil from the fruit of oil Palm trees.

Catherine:

Unfortunately, this tree is replacing other trees and vegetation.

Catherine:

Palm oil is used in many products.

Catherine:

Read the ingredients on the back of your packages.

Catherine:

Biofuels are made from Palm tree oil as well.

Catherine:

The problem with this has been the heavy deforestation and destruction of our biodiverse forests

Catherine:

which were habitats for the endangered orangutan, the rhino, and so many other animals, not to mention the greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere.

Catherine:

So what can you do and what can justice for natureand Alena Bendová do?

Alena Bendová:

Well, the question of Palm oil this industry it's so big.

Alena Bendová:

So far, didn't have a chance to, do some, bigger impact on this.

Alena Bendová:

What we do is education of people, local people, children, and we're showing them the way first the children, it's a paradox.

Alena Bendová:

They live on the border with a beautiful ecosystem and beautiful park and they don't even go there.

Alena Bendová:

They are afraid and they don't know the value of it all.

Alena Bendová:

So we are opening , their eyes and, spread the awareness into local people, about this treasure they have and about the necessity to protect it, at any cost.

Alena Bendová:

we see the way and we are trying to give them this opportunity or suggest them this way.

Alena Bendová:

We see, the way in, like sustainable ecotourism.

Alena Bendová:

We saw it in in Costa Rica.

Alena Bendová:

And they're pretty successful after 30 years of this way.

Alena Bendová:

We can see it's working and the Costa Rican economy is based on ecotourism.

Alena Bendová:

, this is how it should be because it's helping the preservation and people are actually interested to see those ecosystems.

Alena Bendová:

So it's important to make this transition, but in Indonesia it's way harder.

Alena Bendová:

And it's a Palm oil industries.

Alena Bendová:

It's too big.

Alena Bendová:

So for people in all around the world, they can just, do the boycott of the Palm oil, products or some products containing Palm oil.

Alena Bendová:

But still , it's the huge question because most of the Palm oil is used for biofuels.

Alena Bendová:

So it's a matter of big businesses to, to change this.

Alena Bendová:

And I hope that this might start from some enlighting of individuals and it might get up to upper levels of these businesses.

Alena Bendová:

It's a huge topic and huge challenge, which we can 't fight by ourselves because we are only a small NGO (non-government organization) and this

Alena Bendová:

So it's a matter of politics and , national economies and everything.

Alena Bendová:

And in this case, the big businesses, the players, the corporates are involved.

Alena Bendová:

Normal people or regular people can maybe boycotts the companies using the Palm oil boycott products.

Alena Bendová:

And, through this education we do, I always suggest people to prefer local things and, some eco things and maybe consume less of all things.

Alena Bendová:

And what we do is for local community, we offer the awareness of the value of the forest that it's bigger actually than the Palm oil plantation.

Alena Bendová:

If they destroyed the forest, it's gone forever.

Alena Bendová:

And it's a big loss because they can have money, they can make money through the

Alena Bendová:

environmentally friendly tourism, eco tourism, and they can make a lot of money, for years and for the future.

Alena Bendová:

But once you cut the forest puts there, the Palm oil trees and it's just the Palm oil trees they're producing the nuts only, I don't know, 20 years maximum or something like this.

Alena Bendová:

And after that, it's all for nothing.

Alena Bendová:

You know, it's this this quick profit principle, and it's a shame to do it like this.

Alena Bendová:

so we are trying to get involved those local people more into this way, into this ecotourism, as we saw it in Costa Rica for example.

Alena Bendová:

Because of this pandemic people lost their jobs or opportunities.

Alena Bendová:

And of course the tourism in Indonesia is so far, even these days it's closed.

Alena Bendová:

So those people are looking for some opportunities how to earn money.

Alena Bendová:

And it's a worldwide problem.

Alena Bendová:

These local communities are doing more poaching activities.

Alena Bendová:

So that's a really bad side effect of this situation.

Alena Bendová:

This situation brought so many wrong and bad side effects on nature protection.

Alena Bendová:

Those people need money.

Alena Bendová:

And Rangers, for example, they don't have a, full salaries or they were cut off from their job for that because of the situation and those problems, poaching smuggling and, you know, illegal logging.

Alena Bendová:

It's all just in a bigger scale through the pandemic, it went to crazy craziest big level and even in our area because of course we are in some little area

Alena Bendová:

It's a couple of days back when they found that tiger is there, you know, poached tigers

Catherine:

Oh, no.

Alena Bendová:

It's just the so, so wrong.

Alena Bendová:

And so many people just don't know this cause and this effect of this pandemic.

Alena Bendová:

So people are lack of money.

Alena Bendová:

So they going back to do more illegal activities.

Alena Bendová:

So this is why this situation is even worse for nature.

Alena Bendová:

Of course, there are some good things because there is not a, such a huge amount of tourists and travelers.

Alena Bendová:

So the nature can have a little break from it.

Alena Bendová:

But on the other side it's not protected that well.

Alena Bendová:

And this is the thing.

Alena Bendová:

We tried to have the patrols and all the activities on the same level, but we are fighting the financing as well these months.

Alena Bendová:

As the poaching is on the rise, those people were killing even pigs and deer for their food, which means that they killed food for tigers and tigers were moving closer to villages, and to this habited areas.

Alena Bendová:

And some local farmers, they got their cows, but they don't have any, shelters for them or some place where to, to close them.

Alena Bendová:

So they keep the cows only tied on the rope by the tree, on a national border of a , national park where tigers live lives.

Alena Bendová:

So we were solving this tiger conflict , I guess it was one or two.

Alena Bendová:

They were killing cows.

Alena Bendová:

And of course people went mad and they had this economical damage.

Alena Bendová:

So, they were mad and for this reason, our tiger commando started to work as a, as anti conflict team to solve the situation.

Alena Bendová:

We raised money for first for, of course, for the education of the farmers because we needed to give them all the information and all the context that it's not easy just to kill the tiger and problem solved.

Alena Bendová:

So we needed to deal with the situation and calm the community and bring the solution.

Alena Bendová:

So we did the shelter for the cows and the fence so, they can put the cattle in it for the night.

Alena Bendová:

And since we did this campaign or actions, the tiger, went back to the forest and there were no more killings.

Alena Bendová:

So this was, for example, one result of our activities.

Alena Bendová:

It was connected with this COVID situation and and this rise of poaching activities and everything.

Alena Bendová:

So this was one really hard situation for tigers and for us as well.

Catherine:

Alena, I am so glad that you had the money, the funds to build the fence and to help the farmers with the shelter.

Catherine:

And I think that when you reach out, when any organization reaches out to a community that is not understanding or not able to help themselves because of economic detriment, they will in turn,

Catherine:

And educating others around them that people do understand that the work you're doing is helpful and you're right taking care of one tiger doesn't solve the problem.

Catherine:

The solution was to keep all of the tigers away in getting the cattle sheltered.

Catherine:

Thank you.

Catherine:

Thank you so

Alena Bendová:

Okay.

Catherine:

for doing that.

Catherine:

I'm just so sad because the job you were doing, you were moving forward and then of course the pandemic hit.

Catherine:

with the government, I know that you weren't able to work or you can't really work with the government of Indonesia and that's still the case today, right?

Alena Bendová:

Yeah it's it's really hard.

Alena Bendová:

This thing is really hard because there is no such a will to cooperate on these things.

Alena Bendová:

And as there is a poverty in Indonesia, they might be easily corrupted.

Alena Bendová:

So this is something we are still fighting.

Alena Bendová:

All those, I don't know, 10 plus years, it's a, the will of people because on one way, they see you as an opportunity.

Alena Bendová:

And as a, we say like a walking wallet

Catherine:

That's not how I would want you to be seen, but yes, you're right.

Alena Bendová:

So it's just the thing there.

Alena Bendová:

They have big expectations, we justcan't open door for them and they need to do it by themselves.

Alena Bendová:

And this is hard because they don't have this morality or to work or to work harder because they don't need to.

Alena Bendová:

For some people, for even officers in some state bureaus, it's it's, you know, extra work.

Alena Bendová:

So this is really hard in Indonesia.

Alena Bendová:

Of course they are good people, they're hardworking.

Alena Bendová:

Couple of them we have as colleagues and they're volunteers.

Alena Bendová:

So journalists, for example, so those people are active.

Alena Bendová:

But the state level of the nature protection, it's really hard.

Alena Bendová:

It's really hard to get them involved more.

Alena Bendová:

Yeah.

Catherine:

You mentioned morals.

Catherine:

How do you instill morals with regard to the environment and wildlife, when you're in a country where there is such economic turmoil?

Alena Bendová:

It's just people, need to understand first and then see maybe some profit.

Alena Bendová:

Let's say even if it's that we are educating their children so they have maybe some better opportunities for future they're smarter.

Alena Bendová:

We were trying to do it through kids because kids, bring this knowledge into the families and we saw it on some example in Costa Rica again that one, one amazing lady she's a sea biologist

Alena Bendová:

And they took them on the boat, on the sea for snorkeling and those kids, they were, of course they were afraid first.

Alena Bendová:

And, but after they tried are so excited, they were, Ican't just describe it as she told us.

Alena Bendová:

She was so amazed that with the fact they were excited that those fish are colorful and they are moving actually.

Alena Bendová:

And th all the ecosystem is colorful and beautiful, and they never saw it.

Alena Bendová:

They saw fish only on ice dead or on a plate.

Alena Bendová:

So.

Alena Bendová:

This was the change.

Alena Bendová:

And they brought the change order, that experience and the change into their families.

Alena Bendová:

And some of those parents that are fisherman dads, they started to work with the project actually, and they quit fishing at all.

Alena Bendová:

So those are the beautiful examples.

Alena Bendová:

How through kids, you can bring the values.

Catherine:

These kids can grow up with these values instilled and these experiences.

Catherine:

But then when they get older, something happens, whether it be their economic hardship or something, and then it just, they totally change and they become not all of them.

Catherine:

Of course.

Catherine:

And I think that you mentioned today with economics, I think that's really a key player in the future of planet, environmentally for animals and for us.

Catherine:

And how are we going to provide an economic sustainable earth?

Catherine:

It's just going to be decade after decade of going in there and saving the tiger.

Catherine:

There's listeners out there that, that have ideas and I certainly would want them to, work their positive imprints with these governments for change.

Catherine:

is there anything else about the Rangers or anything that you wanted to share about Indonesia?

Alena Bendová:

Yeah.

Alena Bendová:

I can mention the Blue Life Project

Alena Bendová:

which is on the Pulau Banyak Islands close to Sumatra.

Alena Bendová:

And we have second base camp and we have second patrol for the sea activities and this protecting of sea or Marine life.

Alena Bendová:

And this project suffered the most from the lack of fundings more expensive for guests and for everything.

Alena Bendová:

So for the equipment.

Alena Bendová:

So, that's where we needed to cut our activities.

Alena Bendová:

But meantime, we had time for repairings of the camps because as the Indonesia is close to our volunteers are not coming and not helping.

Alena Bendová:

And our

Alena Bendová:

camps were,

Catherine:

able to come out and help right now?

Catherine:

Is it because of

Alena Bendová:

uh, yes, because Indonesia is closed for tourists..

Catherine:

Okay.

Catherine:

Okay.

Catherine:

So, so most of the volunteers that go are outside of Indonesia.

Alena Bendová:

Yes.

Alena Bendová:

Our volunteers are mainly Czech and Slovak people coming from Europe to, to work there in our reserve or on our programs, but they can't.

Alena Bendová:

It's the whole year.

Alena Bendová:

Actually we lost, I don't know, more than million crowns and it really hurt the programs and we needed to just cut it to the, core of our activities.

Alena Bendová:

We needed to stop for example, securing of the turtle nests on a Bangkaru island cause it's far and it takes a lot of money to get there and everything.

Alena Bendová:

So this is what we needed to stop.

Alena Bendová:

So we have news or information that there's a poaching going on again.

Alena Bendová:

And we needed to cut the waste program, the garbage program for the villages because as we collected all the rubbish, we take it always on a boat with volunteers to the main island to a landfill or for recycling.

Alena Bendová:

This is stopped for now or on a minimal level.

Alena Bendová:

We still provide villagers there some bags, but we are not able to keep it running, this program.

Alena Bendová:

But the good thing is we started through pandemic, the education there again for kids from those communities.

Alena Bendová:

At least we can continue in this activity and it's through our co colleagues and volunteers who are Indonesians Indonesian teachers.

Alena Bendová:

So this is great.

Alena Bendová:

This is running.

Alena Bendová:

So it's still on the track with education, but for the ranger or for patrol actions it's a bad situation now.

Alena Bendová:

So this is a pity.

Alena Bendová:

we need, we really need to get some more fundings.

Alena Bendová:

We are trying to do some campaigns in Czech Republic for fundraising for people to donate.

Alena Bendová:

Even a little amount of money, you know, $5 or something, but monthly, this makes a huge difference.

Alena Bendová:

So,

Catherine:

Obviously issues with COVID and I know worldwide

Catherine:

organizations, funding has gone down because people aren't, so many people are not working steadily is what they were before COVID so it's, and then it's hitting the wildlife in ways that I never even thought really.

Catherine:

So I'm very glad that you're bringing this all to our attention so.

Catherine:

Do you send the teachers information?

Catherine:

Do you provide resources to them so that they can teach the students?

Catherine:

How do the teachers provide the education to the kids in school?

Alena Bendová:

well, we don't have any educational program or scripts or some books.

Alena Bendová:

We just started with the, those teachers.

Alena Bendová:

We gave them the information and motivation and, , all the package of of the knowledge and, what they should share with the kids and give, tell the kids.

Alena Bendová:

But they already know that's why they are doing this job.

Alena Bendová:

We can provide them a little money for some material or for their work, but it's still, it's a half, half volunteering.

Alena Bendová:

We are supporting it or supporting it some little fundings

Alena Bendová:

to keep this this project and program running.

Catherine:

still volunteer coordinator

Alena Bendová:

Yeah.

Catherine:

**************Justice for Nature, and you are still the PR person and you're still the fundraiser, even though have seen and felt this downfall

Catherine:

When it's feeling so low, some of those days, what keeps you going?

Catherine:

So what can you share with listeners keep them motivated and to bring motivation and attitude.

Alena Bendová:

They call it environmental grief when you're just depressed by all these situations and big problems you possibly can't change and help.

Alena Bendová:

Well, it's still there.

Alena Bendová:

Our reserve is there and we have our owners and people who trusts us and the local people, we can't let it all down because of some virus or something, some

Alena Bendová:

We can't lose this.

Alena Bendová:

We play for everything for our future, for those beautiful creatures, the orangutans and tiger.

Alena Bendová:

So we can't, we just can't stop.

Alena Bendová:

We need to continue.

Alena Bendová:

And we are very lucky we find this extraordinary man.

Alena Bendová:

I want to mention.

Alena Bendová:

And his name is , Zbynêk Hrábek, he's a Czech,, but he's living five years already in the , Indonesia.

Alena Bendová:

And he's looking after the programs there and the Green Life Reserve

Alena Bendová:

and he's the boss for the patrols and all the programs.

Alena Bendová:

So to him goes huge credit.

Alena Bendová:

He decided to sell all his stuff one day, because he it's a beautiful story.

Alena Bendová:

Actually, he w he went for our volunteer program 2016 or 15, and he came back and he realized that he wanted a change in his world, in his life.

Alena Bendová:

And this beautiful nature it's actually something he want to live for.

Alena Bendová:

So he sold all his stuff and moved into Indonesia and he live, he lives there for five years until these days.

Alena Bendová:

And he's really doing his best and it's his life, you know?

Alena Bendová:

So this a colleague of mine is Zbynêk.

Alena Bendová:

I really want to thank him or put him in this podcast here, because it's a huge credit of his, to take care about all the programs.

Alena Bendová:

And it's the thing that he's not working for money, you know, he's just a, he's just living there.

Alena Bendová:

And it's a kind of , a thing of it's our attitudes to this, of who, for us who are close to the core or who are leading this project.

Alena Bendová:

Once you see through this we call it simply the matrix and you find true values, the beauty of nature, the necessity of protecting it, because all the artificial

Alena Bendová:

So once you see it, you can't go back.

Alena Bendová:

That's why.

Alena Bendová:

Even if you , don't have much to eat, or for example me, I'm here now, this broadcasting it's from my mom's flat because for these days I needed to really to save money I needed to, for some months come back home.

Alena Bendová:

We are all struggling this situation, but we can't just quit this activity no matter what.

Alena Bendová:

And I can continue.

Alena Bendová:

The founder Milan Jeglík and Zuzana Koloušková, they just live this really modest life, but they're traveling, they're filming there.

Alena Bendová:

They have a couple of months of work and education as a business.

Alena Bendová:

And then a couple of months for this work in the field, filming, cutting all the movies, hard work in the field with the Rangers and everything, and they just

Alena Bendová:

don't get paid for this.

Alena Bendová:

No it's I just wanted to mention it because we do this work and it's important because we are people, we are just not some kind of entity where people who began this project and it's not always easy.

Alena Bendová:

It's mostly hard.

Alena Bendová:

And it's really a struggle, for example, for me to to get the funds for the projects.

Alena Bendová:

But we are all of us, we are trying to get the funds, but for me, the hardest part is to see how billions millions and I don't know all the money of the world are just you know, circling around businesses.

Alena Bendová:

Business must run, you know, and everything.

Alena Bendová:

But if I compare the amount of money with which we are working and can make such a huge things

Alena Bendová:

it's just nothing.

Alena Bendová:

It's a drop in the ocean of all those money for those businesses.

Alena Bendová:

And for those luxury things, people are buying.

Alena Bendová:

This sometimes makes me sad because donations to us come from, middle lower and middle class people.

Alena Bendová:

This is for me the hardest part.

Alena Bendová:

And it's a matter of values.

Alena Bendová:

For me it's an endless question, how to bring values to those people to understand.

Alena Bendová:

But unfortunately I think it's only the experience, so

Catherine:

No,

Alena Bendová:

know

Catherine:

you're reaching more people than you think You're amazing.

Catherine:

And I'm so glad that you mentioned your colleague over in Indonesia and say his name one more time.

Alena Bendová:

his name is Zbynêk

Alena Bendová:

hrábek.

Alena Bendová:

Yeah.

Catherine:

him and I appreciate, of course your founders.

Catherine:

You have so much more to talk about to share.

Catherine:

And so many more inspiring words to bring to the listeners we're going to about Costa Rica and your new initiative next week.

Catherine:

Before we end the segment on and Justice for Nature and the Blue Green initiatives, you have already provided us with amazing, inspiring words, but I certainly don't want to end

Alena Bendová:

Thank you for this ending.

Alena Bendová:

One of the main objectives of our projects is to inspire people, to activate people, to bring them the awareness and the right values.

Alena Bendová:

And we have some ethical rules and some ethics we are trying to spread through the education and we do education, not only for kids, but for adults and for public as well.

Alena Bendová:

We are open for everybody, for everyone to join and help by their abilities or possibilities, whether it's money or time or skill.

Alena Bendová:

So I, I really wish to inspire people.

Alena Bendová:

We are not arrogant in this thing that we can change the world and save all and save everything.

Alena Bendová:

But we will be like an example for people that even if you're small, even if you don't have much money, you can do good things for nature and for the future generations and

Alena Bendová:

And with the Goodwill, I think there, there might be magical, big things happening.

Catherine:

Alena, even with your environmental grief, you are providing justice for nature.

Catherine:

And Thank you.

Catherine:

so much for sharing your positive imprints and listeners.

Catherine:

You can go to learn more about Alena and the program justicefornature.org

Alena Bendová:

Thank you so much.

Alena Bendová:

And remember September 18th, run with Rangers, race for wildlife, and join me next Monday for part two with Alena Bendová, . The rewild of Costa Rica.

Alena Bendová:

Your positive imprint.

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