(pronounced VED-ran SMILE-o-vich)
Vedran Smailović was principal cellist for the Sarajevo Opera. He grew up in a noted musical family. As a child, his father organized them into a group, Musica Ad Hominem (Music To the People), to share music through public performances.
He lived in Sarajevo when the siege of his city began in April 1992. Armed forces of the Bosnian Serbs shelled the capital city and pointed snipers against civilians. The siege would last nearly four years.
On May 27, 1992, an artillery shell exploded in front of a bakery while people were lined up to buy bread. Twenty-two people were killed. More than 100 others were badly injured.
The next day, Smailović dressed in his formal wear for a classical concert and carried a chair and his cello out into that courtyard. He began to play Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor as a memorial to the massacre. When he had finished, he picked up his cello and chair and returned inside to safety.
He repeated his performance in the square every day, for 22 days, varying the time of day for security reasons. It was one performance for each civilian who had been killed.
Smailović made a point to play during funerals for people of Sarajevo killed in the siege. This was particularly courageous, because snipers were targeting funerals as a way to create even more painful destruction. He played at graveyards and other sites of destruction from the shelling.
In 1993, Smailović was able to flee the war for the safety of Ireland. Today he lives in Northern Ireland.
Image credit: by Mikhail Evstafiev, licensed under CC BY SA 2.5