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Stanislaw Pchenikov and Valentin Nikolaevich Pluchek discuss theater with Studs Terkel

BROADCAST: Jan. 19, 1962 | DURATION: 00:31:35

Transcript

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Studs Terkel Is Mark Twain popular in Russian, Mark Twain?

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov It is popular, and in our group of tourists--

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov You know, a--

Studs Terkel A cartoonist is in your group that's visiting

Stanislaw Pchenikov America. Yes, and he illustrated Mark Twain.

Studs Terkel Huckleberry Finn?

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And now an American Publishing House wants to, you know, to publish--

Studs Terkel Publish this book.

Stanislaw Pchenikov His pictures.

Studs Terkel His pictures, his cartoons, for Mark, in Russian cartoons for, perhaps, the most American of novelists.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And the books are issued in many thousands.

Studs Terkel Huckleberry Finn, I take it. Huckleberry--

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov No, complete.

Studs Terkel Yeah, complete Mark Twain, I was talking about Huckleberry Finn, on this little figure.

Valentin Pluchek Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Yankee [Russian], Arthur, [Russian]. This Mark Twain.

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek

Studs Terkel Ah, "Innocents Abroad". [Russian]. That's interesting, "Yankees Abroad" and "Innocents Abroad", that's a very interesting--

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And to us the volume of the set, you know, [prepared?] just before our departure.

Studs Terkel When?

Stanislaw Pchenikov There were notebooks, and Mr.

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel Pluchek said that-- [Russian]. Mark Twain's. I'm thinking, back to theater for a minute, where this exchange of literature back to theater. Who--the audience--you say the theaters are jammed every night, and there's a choice of 150 plays a week or 200, more than that, who attends? You see, here theater attendance in America is a minority recreation or interest, most are films or television. Now, who attend? What, is it a minority that attends theaters? A certain minority of people attend theaters in Russia?

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov He said that theatre is popular among all strata of our society, because besides the many theatres I was talking about, we have many amateur theatres, and people go in there and acting in it.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov You know, and oh, our theatres do not follow as he said, the aim of getting profit.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov The tickets are very cheap. And anyone can buy it.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And besides individuals, and as we say, private visiting, we have collectivists run, workers of a plant, you know, organizing a group and they all come.

Studs Terkel Their whole factory comes to see a play. Yeah, or a group, those who want to. Now, again, the matter of audience. Is it a minority audience, or is the appeal broad throughout? See, here--

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Broad as possible.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov You know, very often our theatre is visited by a collective farmers, you know, people from the collective farms, they come by bus and all from villages.

Studs Terkel Well, now here's the question. Is it a musical they come to see, or do they see, do these people see Shakespeare, say, or Chekhov? Or is it a musical like? I'm very interested in this point.

Stanislaw Pchenikov [Russian].

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov You see, it's an obligatory education in the Soviet Union. For all. And they all study, you know, in early age now they study the classics. Western, Soviet and the rest of them. And so they have to, they are acquainted with all that, and besides, they have many theatres, you know, organized purposely for education. For children, for the youth.

Studs Terkel Oh, children's theatres. That is, you raise the point

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov here. There are many children's theatres. Specialist, specialists, only for children. [Russian]. And every, you know, theatre for adults, has also, there's not a big number of plays for children, where they perform Sunday mornings; matinees.

Studs Terkel Sunday mornings.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov So that fairy tale

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek now, the "Magic Rains of Almanzor". [Russian]. Always Sunday mornings. [Russian]. The theatre is filled with, you know-- Kids about this high. Three, four, five years old. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov This is a very, you know--

Studs Terkel Quite exciting.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov They all take it in their own way, open-heartedly and sincerely.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And when,

Studs Terkel

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek you know, on the stage someone, you know-- And the villain is coming, the children cry out-- Something bad, they all cry, "Watch out!" "Watch out!" The same the world over. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov You know, they are the best

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek visitors. The best audiences that there are. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov So we can say that we have the

Studs Terkel widest possible strata of-- But in other words, this one point, a group of factory workers, then, can come and they can see Shakespeare or Marlowe as well as, say, a musical, is that it? They will attend Shakespeare, too?

Stanislaw Pchenikov [Russian].

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel [Russian]. They choose what they want. Actually-- But classic theatre, or serious drama, I'm trying to make, a serious drama is seen by men of the plant or the farmers.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Serious drama is

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov even more popular than the-- Is that so? [Russian]. With big social problems. More serious ideas. [Russian]. We want to make anyone who visits us to take something with them, you know, when they leave us.

Studs Terkel The residue. In other words, serious theatre, the person is that much more rich as a result of having seen it than he was before.

Stanislaw Pchenikov [Russian].

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Because now if we show a life thing, he said, just a musical, a serious play make him understand better himself and the people who--

Studs Terkel If I may digress a moment before asking Mr. Pluchek specifically his work, the nature of art directing, in a moment, before that, musicals--"My Fair Lady", the American

Valentin Pluchek musical, I understand played there, was well-received, was it not? [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Unfortunately, Mr. Pluchek failed to visit--

Studs Terkel To see it.

Stanislaw Pchenikov Because when they were in Moscow he was in Leningrad, and when they went to Leningrad,

Valentin Pluchek he was in Moscow. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov He said that American actors have very highly developed culture of music.

Studs Terkel Oh, this is

Valentin Pluchek that point. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov What our people, you know, like in your actor, that many of them are,

Studs Terkel as we call, synthetic, so they can play the-- Synthetic, you mean in a good sense, you mean, in reference to the word "synthesis," that is, they go, actors, singers, dancers. I see what you mean in that sense. Yes. Yes. You like the ebullience of them, the liveliness of them.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov A wonderful art of moving, you know. And dancing. And good acting.

Studs Terkel Well, this is considered America's--a great contribution to theatre morn--The musical comedy. The musical comedy is primarily American, you know.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Studs Terkel "Kean"? You saw "Kean" with Alfred Drake? Oh, you did, you saw Alfred Drake in "Kean"?

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Again, Americans do--have done to Alexandre Dumas the same as they done to Shaw.

Studs Terkel In "My Fair Lady", "Pygmalion", and

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek to "My Fair Lady" and "Kean", "Pygmalion". [Russian]. They made an operetta. An operetta out of "Pygmalion" and so, too, with "Kean". Isn't that Sartre's "Kean", too, in a way? This "Kean" is not Sartre's "Kean". [Russian].

Studs Terkel Oh, the Dumas, what I call "The Dame with the Camellias".

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Junior.

Studs Terkel Yes. Dumas Junior.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Why they make a musical out of a play by Alexandre Dumas? Of course, I have nothing against--

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov But if Americans will follow this, in a way, and will take some serious plays and change them into operettas. I am afraid of it.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian]. [Russian]. Because you can some serious ideas-- You can distort it, you mean. That's true. Well, since Mr. Pluchek did visit New York and saw plays, did you see

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel [Might be? Probably?] destroying the idea. [Russian]. Because you can some serious ideas-- You can distort it, you mean. That's true. Well, since Mr. Pluchek did visit New York and saw plays, did you see some other plays in New York? I'm interested in your reactions to American plays and American productions.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov It was only two days.

Studs Terkel Oh, Keane was the

Valentin Pluchek

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek only thing you saw. [Russian]. Oh, Porgy and Bess! [Russian].

Studs Terkel Porgy and Bess was--

Valentin Pluchek

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek [Russian]. Gershwin's music. [Russian]. He had become very popular in our country. Gershwin is now popular. Da!

Studs Terkel By the way, and this is, I'm interested in jazz. Is--has jazz being accepted now? I'm wondering, you know, from your field.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov We have a lot of jazz fans, as we call them, and many jazzes. Jazz bands.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And in summertime we have many visitors now, visiting bands now, they play in the Hermitage in Moscow.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov At the same time I must say that in our country, classical music is also very popular.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov In Moscow and in the Soviet Union as a whole we have many conservatories.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And we have tens and even hundreds of outstanding, you know--

Studs Terkel If a young student in this matter

Valentin Pluchek

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek of conservatories-- [Russian]. Richter Kogan. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And the level in our country is rather high, very high.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Violinists and their concerts are also popular.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Studs Terkel Well, this is the question. The young, you--say, a young artist of talent, he might be a composer, an actor, musician, dancer, the young artist, he is found. Now, how--he is sent to a conservatory. What are the matter of finances and subsidy? Students. Of talent.

Stanislaw Pchenikov [Russian].

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov He said it's not a problem. All the schools, they are developed network of musical schools.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov It starts, you know, how you call, going music, you know.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And all the teachers can see, instructors, musical instructors--

Studs Terkel If the

Valentin Pluchek talent is there. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov You know education is free in our country.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Studs Terkel I asked you a leading question. You understand that. I asked--[all laugh] If I may, back to theatre. You yourself, you call yourself an art director, Mr. Pluchek, of a theatre of satire. In America, we think of an art director as the designer. But are you the "regisseur"? Are you the actual director, the stager?

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov In every theatre has chief

Studs Terkel

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek registrar, you know, of-- The managing director. No, is a chief registrar is a producer/director. Producer/director. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov There's a [unintelligible] director, another one. No, he's a manager.

Studs Terkel Oh, he is a business manager.

Stanislaw Pchenikov He isn't.

Studs Terkel No, no, no! You have a business manager! You are the art director! Now I follow it. In short, you are the director. You are what Tyrone Guthrie is, what, you are what Tyrone Guthrie, what Peter Brook is. You do what your cousin does, in other words. Now, I--you are a director. I dig.

Stanislaw Pchenikov I distribute the character. I stage,

Studs Terkel you know, the scenery and the role of the producer, art director is very important. I think this should be said of Mr. Pluchek, I looked at Mr. Tynan's book, Kenneth Tynan's book, "Curtains", it's a collection of his essays on theatre, this is Part Four, the Russian, "The most imaginative production I saw" while he was there in 1955--"Was a satire, Mayakovsky's 'Klop', 'The Bedbug', written in 1929. It was by the theatre of satire," your theatre, "With ebullient technique compounded of vaudeville, review and cartoon film." A tribute to you, Mr. Pluchek.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Studs Terkel Who was, he mentions Yutkevich, too. Yutkevich is a

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov [Russian]. Yutkevich is a very famous film producer in our country.

Studs Terkel So you did this together.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov We both knew Mayakovsky personally. For a long time, Mayakovsky's plays were not staged in our country. There was, you know, a legion, you know, was created--

Studs Terkel A legend.

Stanislaw Pchenikov A legend, yeah, because, which said that plays by Mayakovsky are very bad

Studs Terkel for staging. They are plays for reading. Because he was a poet primarily.

Stanislaw Pchenikov Because he had a lot of new in his plays, and this new ideas, you know--

Studs Terkel And, so, you broke down, you broke down these what seem to be insurmountable difficulties.

Stanislaw Pchenikov And we set up a task before ourselves. To, you know, to bring up Renaissance Mayakovsky--

Studs Terkel Yes. So in a way, a sense, you are responsible for that, Mr. Pluchek, the revived interest in Mayakovsky. This raises another point, the new techniques. Brecht, we know that Brecht has become tremendously popular throughout the world. Is Brecht staged in Russia? Brecht plays, Bertolt Brecht?

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov He is also popular in the Soviet Union.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Studs Terkel The Berliner

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel Ensemble play. [Russian]. Tour of the country. With Helene Weigel.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov In Moscow and Leningrad, and opposite is [unintelligible].

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And a number of theatres now are staging that.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov "Mother Courage", you know, was staged two years ago in Leningrad.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And then another play--

Studs Terkel "Szechwan, the Good Woman"--how would you--"The Good Woman of Szechwan".

Stanislaw Pchenikov Yes, "The Good Woman of Schechuan" also is being staged.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov I would be happy to have in my theatre another play by Brecht. It's "Mr."--

Studs Terkel "Puntila".

Stanislaw Pchenikov "Puntila". Staged, you

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel know, we staged in my theatre. [Russian]. You know, we were friends with Brecht. Oh, you knew Brecht. You worked with Brecht. Oh, you knew Brecht personally.

Stanislaw Pchenikov And, you know, Mr. Pluchek invited Brecht to help, you know. He agreed, you know, he promised to come, but his, unfortunately now, his unexpected death, you know.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov You know, Brecht himself, consider--you know, said that he is a pupil of Soviet artists.

Valentin Pluchek Meyerhold.

Stanislaw Pchenikov Meyerhold.

Valentin Pluchek Eisenstein.

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov Eisenstein. Eisenstein. Mayakovsky. And Mayakovsky.

Studs Terkel This is interesting. He named three directors, one of

Valentin Pluchek film, I mean, Eisenstein of the film, Meyerhold of the experimental theatre, and Mayakovsky a poet. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And Mr. Pluchek himself is a pupil of Meyerhold.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Studs Terkel Oh, you worked with

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel Meyerhold! He worked ten years with Meyerhold. I think that this, of course, I find most impressive. One of the titans of contemporary theatre stagings, Meyerhold.

Stanislaw Pchenikov I consider him to be one of the most outstanding

Studs Terkel registrars. Did you ever know Stanislavsky himself?

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov He is not personally acquainted. He saw

Studs Terkel his rehearsals. But back to Brecht, there's something you said before we went on that intrigues me very much. You mentioned "Mother Courage", and you said you disagree with a certain approach that he has. Would you mind? Brecht's intellect, his appeal to the cold intellect, and you said you disagreed with that, Soviet theatre does.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Brecht has his own theory.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov But I feel that his,

Valentin Pluchek you know, practical work [unintelligible] his theory. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov You know, he wanted his audience to use their intellect.

Studs Terkel Intellect solely.

Stanislaw Pchenikov Solely.

Studs Terkel And not their emotions.

Stanislaw Pchenikov And nor emotions.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov But I [gather?] in Russian theatre that emotions and feelings of--and through the feelings to the intellect.

Studs Terkel I wish the audience could see Mr. Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov now, as he speaks, I know, of the audience becoming involved, becoming part of it, and physicalizing it at the moment. He said that those who came to the theatre, while they're in the house, they should cry, they should laugh, you know, they should--

Studs Terkel Of course, this is very anti-Brecht, his is exactly the opposite, his is the phrase called "alienation," "alienation" as is used often to, that is, the mind should be kept cool and clear when you walk out.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov But only theoretically.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Studs Terkel Yes, when his widow, Helene

Valentin Pluchek Weigel of "Mother Courage". [Russian]. He has one and only one is whether we have a bagel shop.

Stanislaw Pchenikov She is a good actress, and we start, you know, to feel--

Studs Terkel To feel emotion and compassion for her. This is a very funny phenomenon. This what you say, Brecht wants people not, "Mother Courage", he loathed this woman who profited from war, and when she lost her children she had it coming. This is what Brecht wanted us to feel, the hatred toward--and, yet, I saw a Northwestern University production of "Mother Courage" with student actors, and we felt tremendous compassion for this poor woman. So Brecht was such a good playwright that he beat his own ideology.

Stanislaw Pchenikov [Russian].

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Great writer. Great human

Valentin Pluchek being. A man. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And every man has both bad and good.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And very often, sometimes we could not at the

Valentin Pluchek man himself, but of his, you know, wrong ideas. [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov So it's a pity that we are at a radio studio and not at a TV.

Studs Terkel Not television, I know, because at the point is, Mr. Pluchek, Valentin Pluchek is a marvelous actor, too, I can see, as well as a director. You are acting this out now.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Now, because of my lack of English, you know, he said "I want to show."

Studs Terkel I know, demonstrate physically. Mr. Pluchek, you and both Mr. Pchenikov, Pchenikov, meaning "wheat man," you said, are both very gracious guests, this point you made to me is very significant. You spoke of the attitude toward Brecht's, toward "Mother Courage", as played by Helene Weigel, actress, you felt compassion for this woman, though you knew she was doing an evil thing, and you said something earlier that indicates to me something quite interesting. You're not interested in cardboard figures. You said the good and evil in all men and all people have the good and the bad within them. This is accepted, then, as part of Soviet dramaturgy today.

Stanislaw Pchenikov [Russian].

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov Humor has many shades.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov You know, there's some laughter we're calling sarcasm is exposing laughter.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And then another sort of laughter, you know, whether Mark Twain or Dickens, you know, this is kind laughter.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov And you must choose the weapon of laughter, you know, the type of laughter, according to the drama if you want to, you know--

Studs Terkel To expose.

Stanislaw Pchenikov To expose.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov If a man is truly a coward, you know, and he is a very bad man, you shouldn't be kind to him and just smile at him. But sometimes man is very good, but it some, you know-- And you

Studs Terkel

Stanislaw Pchenikov There's confusion. And you shouldn't be too, you know,

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov cruel. Understand the frailties in the human being. [Russian]. Mayakovsky has a book [out? now?] which is entitled, "Mayakovsky is

Studs Terkel Kidding", Mayakovsky is Laughing, and Mayakovsky is Smiling". Three different levels of laughter, you might say. Well, I think this has been a, to me, very revealing and touching, but more than that, perhaps, will lead to more understanding, I hope, on the part of myself and listeners and yourselves.

Stanislaw Pchenikov [Russian].

Studs Terkel Of the strength of theatre, of the strength of theatre itself, of art, as being that link that, perhaps, can lead toward understanding between peoples, more than political speakers, through the artists, perhaps, through the artists may be the channel.

Stanislaw Pchenikov [Russian].

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov All people, the more, will be greater, the more Americans will see our country, and the more we shall know the truth about America, because we respect the great and the talented American people.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov We never mixed up the people with those who are trying to preserve the tension. And we are well aware that the friendship between our great nations affects all the happiness of all people of the world, and he said that the happiness of all people of the world depends on our friendship.

Studs Terkel And amen to that.

Stanislaw Pchenikov And we're

Studs Terkel happy to do anything to be friends. You know the phrase, "Life is short, art is long"? Is that a phrase familiar? It's a Latin--I think it's "Vita brevis, ars longa," something of that nature. Is that the phrase? Art survives, and we trust, since art is an extension of man, if I may, we trust man.

Valentin Pluchek [Russian].

Stanislaw Pchenikov It's a great pity that our conversation is coming to--

Studs Terkel Mr. Plucheck, Valentin Pluchek, a director of the theatre of satire, and Stanislaw Pchenikov, journalist, translator, both of you very gracious and most enlightening, and I hope your visit to the rest of America will be a most pleasant one and enlightening one for you, too. I hope someday to see your plays in Moscow. I'd love to, someday.

Stanislaw Pchenikov [Russian].

Studs Terkel Thank you very much.

Stanislaw Pchenikov You're welcome.

Studs Terkel What's the phrase in Russian for "I'll see you again. So long."?

Stanislaw Pchenikov Das vedanya.

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov

Studs Terkel

Valentin Pluchek

Stanislaw Pchenikov Das vedanya. Das vedanya. Das vedanya. Goodbye! That's goodbye. Thank you.

Valentin Pluchek Thank you very