Friday, April 6, 2012

'Line of blood': 11,541 red chairs and a Cello

Symbolizing the victims of the siege of Sarajevo with a line of 11,541 red chairs, one for each victim of the siege, Bosnia is taking time to remember. AP reports that twenty years ago today war broke out--a war that would lead to some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War Two.  Six hundred smaller chairs represent the children that were killed in the siege. In the war over 100,000 were killed as part of ethnic cleansing.

Serbs, Croats and Muslims still split the power and remain divided in many other ways. Sarajevo mayor Alija Behmen said, "The Sarajevo Red Line is in fact the line of blood that ran down the streets of Sarajevo from April 6, 1992 until 1995."

Several weeks ago at the Nobel Forum we were reminded of the "Price of Peace." These chairs today remind us of the "Price of War."

My husband and I hosted Ivan, a young Yugoslavian hockey player, in our home while this history was still quite raw. I remember looking through his photo album...and remember how I knew that I would never be the same. "This was the bridge before the bombs....this was the market...this was the capitol..." I remember my shock to see how very little our news had covered this war that had so many casualties. I remember feeling completely ignorant..and feeling aghast at how these atrocities could be carried out without the world intervening.

Today's story also included an update on cellist Vedran Smailovic. Do you remember this icon of defiance as he played his cello on a street in Sarajevo as the city was shelled? I do. Today he returned to his hometown and played again for the first time since his 1993 exodus.  Thousands of people gathered for a concert in remembrance with a choir of 750 Sarajevo schoolchildren, approximately the number of children killed in the 43-month siege by Serbian force.

Defiance during the bombing in the early 90's
When we pause to remember, to hear the personal stories and to see the photo albums of those who lived through war, only then will our children's grandchildren have a chance to grow up in a world where war and violence are described only in the past tense.