Tag Archives: John McCutcheon

Goodbye Sarajevo by Atka Reid and Hana Schofield

Putting it very simply this is the true story of two sisters from Sarajevo who now live in New Zealand. However, their story, as documented in this book, is far from ordinary. Both authors will be talking about their newly published book at the Readers and Writers Festival in Auckland on the 14th and 15th May.
Of particular interest to us at King’s College is the fact that one of the authors is the mother of one of our students.

“Hana is twelve years old when she is put on one of the last UN evacuation buses fleeing the besieged city of Sarajevo. Her twenty-one-year-old sister, Atka, staying behind to look after their five younger siblings, is there to say goodbye. Thinking that they will be apart for only a few weeks, they make a promise to each other to be brave. But as the Bosnian war escalates and months go by without contact, their promise to each other becomes deeply significant. Hana is forced to cope as a refugee in Croatia, far away from home and family, while Atka battles for survival in a city where snipers, mortar attacks and desperate food shortages are a part of everyday life. Their mother, working for a humanitarian aid organisation, is unable to reach them and their father retreats inside himself, shocked at what is happening to his city. In Sarajevo, death lurks in every corner and shakes the foundation of their existence. One day their beloved uncle is killed while queuing up for bread in the market square, in a massacre similar to the one three months earlier which prompted a cellist to make a lone musical protest in the deserted streets. But when Atka finds work as a translator in an old, smoky radio station, and then with a photojournalist from New Zealand, life takes an unexpected turn, and the remarkable events that follow change her life, and those of her family, forever. Set in the middle of the bloodiest European conflict since the Second World War, Goodbye Sarajevo is a moving and compelling true story of courage, hope and extraordinary human kindness.”

The library also has a copy of  The Cellist of Sarajevo by Canadian author Steven Galloway.

This book “tells the story of three people trying to survive in a city rife with the extreme fear of desperate times, and of the sorrowing cellist who plays undaunted in their midst. One day a shell lands in a bread line and kills twenty-two people as the cellist watches from a window in his flat. He vows to sit in the hollow where the mortar fell and play Albinoni’s Adagio once a day for each of the twenty-two victims.”

However, when The Cellist of Sarajevo was published in Canada three years ago Vedran Smailović (the real life Cellist of Sarajevo)  was very angry at being portrayed in the book.

This is how it was reported by David Sharrock in  The Sunday Times June 7, 2008 Cellist of Sarajevo, Vedran Smailović, is wounded by words: a musician who risked his life playing a lament for 22 massacre victims is incensed by a novel capitalising on his act.

John McCutcheon, the American folksinger, was also inspired by the actions of Vedran Smailović  to write this song about the madness of war.

He was there one Sunday morning
At the corner of the square
In a freshly pressed tuxedo
In a simple folding chair
Just after curfew lifted
When everything was still
He played his cello
In the morning chill..

In the streets of Sarajevo
A place of flame and death
This music so surprising
The whole world held its breath
And each morning he returned
To that spot and he would play
In the streets of Sarajevo – everyday

And everyday he made me wonder
Where did he ever find
The music midst the madness
The courage to be kind
The long forgotten beauty
We thought was blown away
In the streets of Sarajevo everyday..

And many was the day
The soldiers asked him who he was
They warned him of the danger
In doing what he does
Many said that he was crazy
To risk his life in such a way
On the streets of Sarajevo, everyday.

I wish someone could tell me
Who is crazy, who is sane
Those who stand in protest
Or those who drop these bombs like rain
Those who fill our lives with death
In this place where children play
On the streets of Sarajevo everyday…

So I come here in defiance
To add a bit of grace
Try to ease the awful hatred
And the horror of this place
To remember there is beauty
No matter what they say
In the streets of Sarajevo everyday..

And everyday I see them
Those who will not stand aside
Who refuse to be defeated
Who rage against the tide,
They are a glimmer in the darkness
The rolling of the stone..
A message in a bottle
From the distant shores of home..

Everyday he made me wonder
Where did he ever find
The music midst the madness
And the courage to be kind
The long forgotten beauty
We thought was blown away
In the streets of Sarajevo,.. Belfast, Tel Aviv
And in the streets of Jakarta
And in the streets of New York City
And in the streets of every city, everyday..