Shelter in place

I lived in Boston for a long time and still have many close friends and family there. What’s been happening this week has reminded me of the iconic image and story of the cellist of Sarajevo

“Filled with sorrow, I eventually fell asleep at dawn, and was awakened by new explosions and the shouts of my neighbors, who were awake carrying children and blankets to shelters. I went to the shelter myself and returned home after the shelling was over. I washed my face and hands, shaved, and without thinking, put on my white shirt, black evening suit and white bow tie, took my cello and left home. Looking at the new ruins, I arrived at the place of the massacre… I opened my cello case and sat down, not knowing what I would play. Full of sadness and grief, I lifted my bow and spontaneously made music.”

When his spontaneous playing was done, Smailovic discovered that people had gathered to listen near the square. Around coffee late that evening close friends told him how meaningful it was and begged him to play again, that they felt better when he played…he decided to return to the Bread Massacre Square and play every day for twenty-two days in a row, one for each person killed in the massacre. Shelling never ceased during those days, but neither did his music…on one occasion, during a lull in the shelling, a TV news reporter approached the cellist seated in the square and asked, “Aren’t you crazy for playing music while they are shelling Sarajevo?” Smailovic responded, “Playing music is not crazy. Why don’t you go ask those people if they are not crazy, shelling Sarajevo while I sit here playing my cello.” [link]


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