On my way back to the airport we pass a cafe called Bolero. The taxi driver slows down to let another car pass on this narrow road, still lined with tall gullies of snow so it feels like a bob sled. I have just visited the Zetra Stadium where Edin Numankadic greeted me, showed me around the gallery and then walked me into the stadium so I could stand where Torvill and Dean danced to Bolero. This was the reason for my journey and Edin was the most amazing guide. He is an artist who has exhibited at the Venice Biennale and gave me a catalogue which describes how his work was affected by the war: ‘the artist was catapulted to a different world, a world of hardship, rubble, destroyed and ravaged lives’. He exhibited a small kitchen table which has on it a piece of bread, a bottle of water, an oil lamp, a newspaper, a closed book, an open set of water colours and a vase of dead flowers. It is poetic and powerful and speaks like the man himself, who told me many stories about the war, made me tea and called me Mihail. The most incredible stories centred on his time as the museum curator during the conflict. The museum was situated in the city centre but was bombed, so Edin moved the exhibits into the basement of the Zetra Stadium, but this was also bombed. He showed me a gold medal he had found in the ruins, burnt and charred, the metal slightly melted, this was a symbol of what war could do to art, louder than words. I say art, because I think Edin sees the Olympics themselves as an art form and he said, when I spoke of the difficulty in describing ice skating as either art or sport, that if you do anything with style and finesse and grace than it approaches art in some way and how you don’t make art you live it or breathe it, like the music of Mozart. He talked about music and how he heard a performance of Mozart’s Requiem during the war that moved him more than any other and how his wife would play the piano every night in their apartment, without water, without electricity, and neighbours would come to hear her play. And when they moved to another apartment he asked the Bosnian army to help him get the piano up the stairs. I think of Ravel moving his piano into his upstairs music room and I tell Edin that Ravel’s favourite composer was Mozart too. After the tour of the museum and the stadium, Edin walked me back into town and we talked more about his work as an artist. It seems to me that to place the museum in the hands of a man like Edin reflects the way in which the city sees the impact of the Olympics on its culture. He told me that there were three defining moments in the 20th Century for Sarajevo, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand which triggered the First World War, the Winter Olympics in 1984 and the Siege in the 1990s. When I asked him questions about the siege he would smile, as many Bosnians have this weekend, and say something poetic and philosophical that would politely decline to answer. The overriding sense I have from him having only met for a few hours was someone irrevocably marked by the conflict that is dedicated to making the most of life as a result. And the care with which he has curated the exhibition is indicative of this. As we said goodbye, I gave Edin the seed from Ravel’s garden so that he might take care of it, nurture it, let it grow in the ground in this city, like the rhythm of Bolero has in the hearts of those who heard it here. He said ‘When we think of the Olympics in Sarajevo we think of Bolero’. As we speed to the airport in the taxi Edin hailed for me, I make a resolution to return to Sarajevo for longer, later in the year, when it is not snowing. I would very much like to visit Edin again in his artist’s studio, to drink tea with him and to talk more about how a man merges his love of art with his desire to keep the Olympic flame burning in a city where the wind of war had threatened to extinguish it. He is on the board of the Cultural Committee in Sarajevo and every year they organise a festival for the anniversary of the Olympics. As it says in the catalogue he gave me: ‘… perhaps enlightenment shall emerge, an understanding of the meaning and absurdity of living and creating.’


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