Who Is Vedran Smailovic?

Here’s a picture:

And what did this musician do, after being away from his Bosnian home for many years, only to return to find it almost completely destroyed?

He played his cello – in the ruins. Every day. Just to basically “flip the bird” to the forces of death and destruction and dehumanity. He said to the world, through his music, “Not. Dead. Yet.”

He also played funerals – even though funerals were often targets for attacks.

His story was the inspiration for this modern Christmas song by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12-24”

Paul O’Neill explained the story behind Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 in an interview published on ChristianityToday’s website:

We heard about this cello player born in Sarajevo many years ago who left when he was fairly young to go on to become a well-respected musician, playing with various symphonies throughout Europe. Many decades later, he returned to Sarajevo as an elderly man—at the height of the Bosnian War, only to find his city in complete ruins.

I think what most broke this man’s heart was that the destruction was not done by some outside invader or natural disaster—it was done by his own people. At that time, Serbs were shelling Sarajevo every night. Rather than head for the bomb shelters like his family and neighbors, this man went to the town square, climbed onto a pile of rubble that had once been the fountain, took out his cello, and played Mozart and Beethoven as the city was bombed.

He came every night and began playing Christmas carols from that same spot. It was just such a powerful image—a white-haired man silhouetted against the cannon fire, playing timeless melodies to both sides of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loves. Some time later, a reporter traced him down to ask why he did this insanely stupid thing. The old man said that it was his way of proving that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.

The song basically wrapped itself around him. We used some of the oldest Christmas melodies we could find, like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells” (which is from Ukraine, near that region). The orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope.

Admittedly Vedran was only in his mid-30s at the time of the siege of Sarajevo, and he wasn’t white haired when he came back, so Paul was in error on that count

But the Cellist of Sarajevo was the inspiration behind a wildly popular modern Christmas tune.

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One thought on “Who Is Vedran Smailovic?

  1. […] Who Is Vedran Smailovic? (holla215.wordpress.com) […]

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