With bombs exploding around him, this brave cellist honored his city’s gunned-down residents and national treasures.
Vedran Smailovic is known most famously as the “Sarajevo cellist.” Wearing his black tuxedo and often pictured sitting on rubble, he is known as the musician who bravely — and brazenly — performed as rebel snipers took control of his city.
But this didn’t deter Smailovic. He regularly sat with his cello on what was left of bombed-out buildings and performed for whoever was around to listen.
He also performed at funerals, which were common targets for snipers. For 22 days in a row, he played on the sidewalk spot where 22 city residents were gunned down while waiting in line for bread.
On the day bombs landed on the Vijecnica, the building that held the country’s national library and part of the local university’s book collection, Smailovic was one of the first to arrive on scene and helped other residents trying to rescue books from the flames. Fire eventually destroyed the building and most of the two million books inside — an attempt, he said, “to wipe out Bosnian collective memory.”
The civil war eventually ended, and reconciliation was achieved, but Smailovic had escaped to Ireland by then. The beloved Vijecnica was rebuilt about 20 years later, but Smailovic has said he will never return to the city: “There is nothing here for many people. Young people are leaving to get work and to live their lives in other places. There is nothing here for me, either. Besides, the war taught me never to go back, only to go forward.”
#84: Boston City Councilman Implements Free Sunscreen Citywide << 100 Acts of Male Goodness
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Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev/Used under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0