I am sitting in a graveyard next to the Zetra Stadium listening to Bolero. The sun is high in the sky and there is a mist rolling across the city. Last time I came here the ground was covered in snow and it was hard to know how many graves there were. Now I can see there are thousands. I am sitting in between the old cemetery with lamps burning where loved ones pay their respects and the new cemetery where Muslim graves point in the direction of Mecca, the white needle marble headstones like pins in a map. A large white obelisk in the centre has speakers playing the call to prayer. The monument is a minaret of remembrance.
As I walked along the rows and rows of gravestones I noticed the dates, 92, 93, 94, 95. So many here are victims of the war. Some wear photos on the stone. Some an inscription, possibly a message from loved ones about how they lost their lives during the siege. Across the road more gravestones pepper the hills and beyond the stadium there is another graveyard that reaches higher than the eye can see. Some of these victims of the war would originally have been buried beside the Zetra stadium on the site of the former Olympic speed skating rink. But now that has been reclaimed. A white dome echoes with the sound of ice hockey and children’s ice skating lessons. Last time I wrote ‘Now children skate over where children lay’. Now I can hear it for myself. Children laughing and skating and shouting to the sound of dance music.
The concrete chimney with the Olympic rings at the top still towers over the graveyard. But this time the logos on the wall are not submerged in the snow. It is strange to see the grass around the graves. Last time I came the city was in Black and White. Stranger still to see the Sarajevo Roses on the streets of the city where shrapnel damage has been filled with red wax. Last time they were covered in snow. The names of victims are etched in the wall between shops and banks remembering those that fell waiting for bread or fish or water. Going about their daily lives on the last day of their lives. And now people walk over the Sarajevo Roses going about their own daily lives with a sense of urgency, a sense of the future not of the past. As I write this to Bolero the rhythm of the music also has a sense of urgency, driving the theme of the music forward, driving me forward.
Today I visit the SARTR again to talk to one of the actors who lived through the siege and to work out what I have so far. There are many different strands that I need to (un)ravel. Now, sitting here with the sun on my face, surrounded by monuments to war and the Olympic stadium, there is so much I need to say. I have to find a way to let the music tell the story. I learned from Edin Numankadic at the Winter Olympic Museum that Zubin Mehta (conductor of Bolero in the 1973 film) came to Sarajevo in 1994 to conduct Mozart’s Requiem at the ruined City Hall.
I learned from Benjamin that a famous Bosnian director, Haris Pasovic, directed a performance called Sarajevo, Bolero. He was one of the many artists/writers who flew back into Sarajevo when the siege started and apparently he fell over when he was running across the tarmac at the airport to avoid sniper fire. Two oranges and some books fell out of his rucksack. He picked them up and carried on his way. On his way to make a performance about Bolero. Like me. I will draw a line between Ravel, Mehta and Pasovic that ends with our own performance.
As I start this last page of my notebook, a plane flies overhead on the same flight path as the fighter jets that bombed the Olympic stadium in 1992. I am standing where those shells fell. I am in the line of fire. Now I must tell the story. I walked here past the eternal flame, a memorial to those that lost their lives fighting in the resistance during the Second World War, now it wears bullet holes from the Bosnian War. Everything here has been rewritten, one war writes over another, children skate over where children lay. Now I must start rewriting Bolero.