So the other day someone wrote to me through my John F. Burns website and requested "the 1992 article on vedran smailovic – the cellist of Sarajevo".
Back in the olden days, before Times Select, before all you needed was a home delivery subscription to the Times to have complete access to their archive going back to 1851, I found it necessary to collect and republish on the free web as many John F. Burns stories as I could get a hold of. Because they are important.
Anyway I also placed this note on the site:
This is an archive of links to John F. Burns articles on the New York
Times website. These links (click on the title of any article) do not
require registration on the NYT site and are impervious to linkrot. If
you are interested in obtaining the complete text of John F. Burns
articles going back over the last couple of years, send an email noting the nature of your request (fair use, personal consumption, etc.) and I'll see if the text is available.
I've gotten maybe 2 requests in 3 years. But this one reminded me of a big one. The story that I'll never forget reading, the one when I realized how horrible things were in Sarajevo, home of the Olympics.
The Death of a City: Elegy for Sarajevo -- A special report.; A People Under Artillery Fire Manage to Retain Humanity
By JOHN F. BURNS
June 8, 1992
As the 155-millimeter howitzer shells whistled down on this crumbling city today, exploding thunderously into buildings all around, a disheveled, stubble-bearded man in formal evening attire unfolded a plastic chair in the middle of Vase Miskina Street. He lifted his cello from its case and began playing Albinoni's Adagio.
There were only two people to hear him, and both fled, dodging from doorway to doorway, before the performance ended.
Each day at 4 P.M., the cellist, Vedran Smailovic, walks to the same spot on the pedestrian mall for a concert in honor of Sarajevo's dead.
The spot he has chosen is outside the bakery where several high-explosive rounds struck a bread line 12 days ago, killing 22 people and wounding more than 100. If he holds to his plan, there will be 22 performances before his gesture has run its course.
Two months into a civil war that turns more murderous by the day, Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a skeleton of the thriving, accomplished city it was. It is a wasteland of blasted mosques, churches and museums; of fire-gutted office towers, hotels and sports stadiums, and of hospitals, music schools and libraries punctured by rockets, mortars and artillery shells.
Parks have been pressed into service as emergency cemeteries, and the pathetic lines of graves march ever farther up the hillsides toward the gun emplacements.
What is happening here, in a European city that escaped two World Wars with only minor damage, is hard to grasp for many of those enduring it.