It was May 27th, 1992, in Sarajevo. A group of civilians were standing in a breadline, hoping for their share of a dwindling food supply when a mortar shell fell from the sky. Twenty-two innocent men, women and children were killed. It was May 28th, 1992, when principal cellist of the Sarajevo Opera Orchestra, Vedran Smailovic, took his cello to the crater left by the deadly blast and, amidst the sniper fire, played for 22 consecutive days...one for each of his friends and neighbors who had been killed.
It was a cold winter's day in January, 1997, when Jason Crowe read about the 1992 Sarajevo Breadline Massacre. That was the day that Smailovic, the "Cellist of Sarajevo," became Jason's hero.
Jason wrote: "For him to take his cello and sit at the site of the mortar shell massacre playing, while bullets flew around him... painted a vivid picture in my mind. I think it was the imagery that broke through where other horror stories didn't. Most news coverage is a quick sweep of the dead bodies. This was different. I thought how brave he was to do this alone...just one person all by himself making a difference in a dangerous world. Because of his action, news media was attracted to Sarajevo and a lot of the atrocities finally made the headlines."
"As I was thinking about his bravery, it also dawned on me how symbolic his response had been. His reaction was to answer war with harmony. This just really impressed me. I realized all of a sudden that the only reasonable answer to war is harmony. So Mr. Smailovic became my hero, not just because of his personal bravery, standing up for his friends, but because, through this brave act, I came face to face with a profound truth: If you answer violence with violence, you create a vicious, unending cycle. The answer to violence has to be creative energy, not more destructive energy."
|Painting by Deryk Houston
To honor Mr. Smailovic and what his actions stood for, Jason has commissioned sculptor David Kocka to create the Children's International Peace and Harmony Statue. He states, "The 3 'Spirits' of the statue will depict and honor: 1. The spirit of all Bosnians who have lived through or died in the madness of ethnic cleansing; 2. The spirit of harmony that cries on like a lone cello in a world full of violence which refuses to listen; and 3. The spirit of children around the world who want peace and harmony, not war and genocide, as their legacy in the new millennium."
Jason wrote and presented the following poem, during a memorial and vigil he organized in Evansville, Indiana, May 27, 1997, on the 5th Anniversary of the Breadline Massacre. It is called "Harmony in the Park", and is dedicated to Vedran Smailovic and his 22 neighbors and friends.
THE CELLO CRIES ON
May 27th, five years ago today,
A mortar shell fell in a city far away.
Twenty-two people lost their lives-
Husbands, children, grandparents, wives.
One man saw the blood and gore,
The next day he walked out his door.
He walked to the crater with his cello and chair,
And played while bullets flew through the air.
For twenty-two days his cello cried,
One day for every person who died.
He soon became world renowned
For his courage, his music, his feelings profound.
Where were you? Where was I?
When Sarajevo bled and Bosnians died.
We were asleep. We were safe.
While in Bosnia cities were being strafed.
Wake up, World! See the blood, hear the screams!
Wake up, World! Come out of your dreams!
Wake up, World! Sound the alarm,
So people of Bosnia won't suffer more harm.