'The End of War'

3 Aug 200925
In 1993 Bill Carter was an aid-worker and documentary film maker living in Sarajevo, a city under siege from 18,000 Serbian troops firing artillery and mortar from the surrounding hills - and penetrated from within by snipers. Even though it was cut off from the rest of the world Carter saw the city as a sign of hope in the Balkan war because 'Sarajevans refused to be divided along ethnic lines with many Serbs joining the defence of the city against the Serb nationalist besiegers.'

It was when he met up with U2 on the ZOO TV Tour in 1993 that a plan came together to show young people in the rest of Europe what life was like in a besieged city on their continent. Four years later, with the siege over, U2 took the POPMART Tour to Sarajevo and next week they return to the region, with two shows at the Stadium Maksimir in Zagreb.

Bill directed the documentary Miss Sarajevo (produced by Bono) and captured the whole story in a highly praised memoir 'Fools Rush In'. In April he was made an 'honorary citizen of Sarajevo' for being 'guided by the noblest principles, (which) enabled spreading of truth about Sarajevo and its citizens during the siege.' We invited Bill to recall the story of his friendship with U2 for U2.com and the story of the band's friendship with the people of the Balkans.


'In June 1993 I was in a television station when I overheard Bono and Edge speaking on MTV. They were addressing the issue of a united Europe, saying it was a dream worth dreaming. Of course I agreed, but there was only one problem: I was watching the TV being powered by a generator, surrounded by people emaciated to the point of looking like death camp survivors, and by the end of the month hundreds of people would die as snipers picked people off like cans lined up on a fallen log. I was standing in Sarajevo, ground zero of the most violent and bloody war in Europe since World War II. At that moment the idea of a united Europe seemed like a hollow pipe dream.

I had come to Sarajevo - a certifiable hellhole in 1993 - to deliver humanitarian food with a convoy of young men dressed as clowns. It was surreal but it worked. That day, after listening to U2 speak on MTV, I got the idea to reach out to the band. So, I forged some documents, called in a few favors and two weeks later I was sitting backstage in Verona hoping to get U2, the most powerful band in the world to do something. What? I really had no idea, but something had to be better than nothing.

That night I found myself face to face with Bono and Edge, partners in dreaming on very large scales. I told them stories of people I knew in Sarajevo. I told them about the musicians, about the full orchestra that gathered in basements to play their music. I spoke of theater productions, of painters who found a way to barter for their paints, and the cello player who plays to the dead in the cemetery after dark, his music echoing through a city of 250,000 souls, without food, water, gas, or electricity. By the end of the night Bono suggested he would come to Sarajevo in the next couple of days. I explained that, although it sounded like a great idea, it was impossible. The Serbian army that occupied the hills above Sarajevo kept close watch on the city and any gathering of people became an automatic target for an artillery attack. Disappointed, Bono, along with Edge, asked me to think of something. It was obvious they had no intention of giving up. They left me this thought: 'Think of something and we'll do it. It is time to do something radical.'

Thus the idea of the satellite link-ups was born. It was a simple solution. Instead of bringing U2 to Sarajevo we would bring Sarajevo to U2, and its stadium-filled audiences. During the satellite transmission in the Copenhagen show, a man from Sarajevo spoke into the camera and asked U2 if they would one day come to Sarajevo and play a concert. Bono replied, 'Yes, we will.'

In 1997, two years after the end of the fighting, U2 came to Kosovo Stadium in Sarajevo to play that promised show. To this day I'm not sure U2 knows the full influence this particular concert would have on the city, the country, or the region. To have 40,000 people gathered together in Sarajevo, from all over the Balkans, only two years after a violent war, had a profound effect on people. For some there was a deep-seated fear they would be standing next to a sniper who may have shot at them a few years ago. For others the fear was not in recognizing the enemy, it was the opposite: that they would not know if they were standing next to that person. How could they? The killers and victims look alike; they speak alike, and eat the same food. They are neighbors. But that night, once the music began, no one cared about last names, nations, or religion. All they cared about was the music. The simple celebration of music became a celebration of the end of the war. And the concert was unanimously perceived as a reward for those that survived.

By fulfilling their promise to play Sarajevo in 1997 U2 managed to do something that is more difficult than it seems: they literally extended a feeling of trust, they brought a sense of hope to Bosnians. Hope that this war was over. Hope that a sense of normality, manifested in the biggest rock band in the world, would return to Sarajevo. This feeling of hope and trust with U2 is spoken of often in the streets of Sarajevo. What is not talked about much is what Sarajevo did for U2. It was risky for the band to speak about war - to show the face of war on 80-foot screens, to make their audience squirm in a very uncomfortable situation. But it worked. They took a lot of flack for the satellite link-ups from Sarajevo into their ZOO TV shows but as Larry once told me, 'I think history will show that these satellites were a very good thing.'

As for the concert, the band has said that the concert in Sarajevo was one of the most memorable in their lives. But I also suspect the concert and the satellite link-ups gave the members of U2 a sense of hope as well. By seeing all these people who were once at war with each other gathered to dance, to sing, to express joy gave the band an affirmation that music, at least while the song is playing, can transcend borders, language, war, and nationalism.

It is easy to dismiss the actions of a rock band as frivolous or at least less important than the words and actions of politicians gathered in secret rooms. But U2's role should not be played down - by the simple act of getting involved, of doing something, they challenged the notion of a united Europe. I remember a NATO General at the Sarajevo concert telling me that there were 4,000 troops in the city to provide security but 'this band spends their own money and 40,000 people come together. We are in the wrong business.'

Today, almost fifteen years since the end of the war, peace in the Balkans is shaky. No one quite trusts it, but still it plods along, like a tireless train going uphill. It is a peace that relies on the trust of those that were enemies not long ago. No one thinks war will break out, but tensions are always brewing under the surface. Still, tourism is rebounding and industry is on the rise. These people are survivors. And on August 9th and 10th Makimir stadium in Zagreb will fill up with people from all over the Balkans to see the new incarnation of a U2 show. No one thinks that one rock concert can change the world, but for many U2's return signals something else: another chapter in a relationship started between the band and the region in the summer of 1993. And just like 1997 in Sarajevo, for one night 40,000 people will remember they are just people, with souls light enough to be lifted by the power of music.

Writer, photographer (he took the photos above) and filmmaker Bill Carter's most recent book is Red Summer. Find out more about what Bill is up to here.
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U2's Greatest Act
Of all the good this band has done, for me this is the pinnacle. I knew little of what went on during those years as I had my own problems and no television, but since then I've read Bill's book, Fools Rush In and it is what led me to be a fan of U2. I'm especially thrilled that Miss Sarajevo is in the setlist this summer. If only it remains there for one of my shows in the US next summer. THANK YOU BILL CARTER THANK YOU, U2
rebirth of hope
a lot of people from croatia went to see the show in sarajevo in 1997. the urge to grab that sparkle of hope, that peace is possible within the region, was stronger than fear. it was u2 who brought that sparkle. 12 years latter, they returned. it had to be worth for something. to see over 100000 people with their hearts open, minds free of everyday's politics and poverty, singing along from the moment bono lifted his hands for the first time in the show, and without single incident in 48 hours, in country in which murders happen on a daily basis, was to recognize the power of music, the power of those who work for right reasons, and, most important, the power of putting out simple message with idea, which in this region was smothered for years, that, we all are - one. u2 became institution of peace and hope. the shows changed my life, i will do everything in my power to continue the work. thank you, so much.
you are an inspiration
Thank you million times, you have made our country proud and better with your coming! You brought hope to a country struck by war 15 years ago and hard times ever since!You are a true inspiratio my whole life and will always be! I hope to see you again soon in Zagreb!
the hope
I was in front of the stadium in Zagreb two days ago (09.08.), and i was listening to Bono when he started to name the cityies in Croatia; he named Zagreb, Split; Rijeka and Sarajevo! In the first I thoath it was a mistake, but then i saw this i now I understand everything. With those words he makes a beautifull thing, he makes us to undrestand the meaning of war and the meaning of love, he makes us understand the meaning of peace and respect. Thank you U2, with your ideas and with your music we will make this lands a better place for living. We love U2!
"...people will remember they are just people, with souls light enough to be lifted by the power of music..." Beautifull !
This was a concert because of which I, for first and last time, escaped from school. I recall that I was speechless, flooded with emotions, standing right in front to fences of the red zone, that I never noticed members of the band exactly in front of me, the young man that I liked, right behind me, the crowd, the lemon and the stage ... Now, I remember just the "Pride" moment, with every letter of that song tearing my soul, and tears of Bono and his broken voice, when crowd finished song, and my wish for that moment to last and last ... forever. It was wonderful in Zagreb , but ... spirit of Sarajevo was missing. I hope that you miss it too and that we will soon, again, share that connection. Thanks you for message and spirit inside of me, Nina
Please come home... Sarajevo miss you
Zagreb 10.08.2009. choreography
Hi, everyone! Croatian U2 fans (www.u2croatia.net) are organizing a baloon choreography for the band as a welcoming act, on 10th of August on Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb. Here is a picture to help explain the idea. The baloons are of orange, white and green color, forming a huge Irish flag... http://img338.imageshack.us/img338/8100/lgzagreb.jpg We would like to ask everyone who is coming to a concert that day to bring one baloon of suited color, depending on an area he/she is in - south, east, west, north or terrain. When U2 begins to play, in the beggining of the first song, inflate your baloon, do not tighten it, just hold the inflating part with your fingers to keep the air inside, lift it as high as you can, wave with it, or whatever you like, and then, at the end of the first song, just let go your baloon.... We would like to invite all the fans who will come to Zagreb, to help us welcome the band by doing this little choreo. Thank you, and welcome to Zagreb!!! u2croatia team
I'll never forget 23.09.1997. show in Sarajevo. See you guys in Zagreb. Thank U2.
The sweetest thing
This was really touching article! THANK YOU for remembering the world about our tragedy and thank you for coming to my town. U2 is the best band ever and we wont be just another show in your career, you'll remember Croatia forever, and hopefully, youll come back again. Thank you for everything guys!! See you on both shows!!
Thanks U2
I was there on 23rd September 1997. I was only 19 years old back then and that was my first concert by a famous band. I've been to many other similar concerts in the meantime but nothing can compare to that one. I will always be grateful to U2 for giving us the voice and the hope in those "weeks, months and years" of war. I hope that soon they will become honorary citizens of Sarajevo, just as Carter did.
Great Read
As the title says, this was a great read. It is easy for me to take for granted peace and security, sitting at home here in America very comfortably... U2 provided a reality check for optimism in the 90s, and help optimism actually exist because of it. Great men, U2 are. May peace continue and hopefully prosper throughout the Balkans, for great men and women are they, too.
This is a great recount of those days and really shines a spotlight on the conscience of the band which since the early 90's has suffered a little in the public eye with plenty of Bono-bashers abounding. It is clealy what gives there music resonance - the pulsing rhythms, chiming guitars and emotive yells are really clarion calls for change and peace. Keep rocking U2
Nice article, and even though they may have gotten some flack for showing footage of Sarajevo I think what they did was a good thing. They helped bring awareness to what was going on. I know I personally didn't know about it until then. It also appears that they helped bring joy and happiness by playing there as promised, if even for a moment. I think people will appreciate the concerts and you more than you will ever know.
zagreb 1984 and counting
Fan for 25 years,from the unforgettable fire days,this is my personal dream,u2 in zagreb on our little ruined stadium, and i think this is their greatnest,can't wait for it
Fools Rush In
For any U2 fan, Bill Carters book "Fools Rush In" is must read! Thank you Bill and thank you U2! I was there in Sarajevo on September 23d 1997 and the concert was pure Love pure R'nR and i couldn't ask for more!!!
Incredibly moving
As someone who was a young teenager when the Balkan war broke out and followed its developement and resolution through not only because of the links U2 made but also for the impact they left behind within me, I can honestly say that to hear how much such a simple action has done for the people of that region is both humbling and inspiring. I love our 4 dublin lads, they just keep on giving...cant wait to see them live
Achtung Y'all
I remember hearing some of the live satellite transmissions from Sarajevo during Zoo TV and the people in the beseiged city were talking about how U2 really wasn't helping them at all. I would suggest that bringing awareness to awful situations such as that does help. I'm from Oklahoma in the United States and I can tell you that I didn't see anything on the news quite as dramatic or sobering about the siege in Sarajevo as the statements coming from the people in the city itself. I feel the same way about what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan today. The news wants to make everything look pretty and entertaining. Although thousands have died I haven't seen one name of the dead or a single body bag displayed on the news. Artists like U2 show us the real situation and help raise awareness which is necessary before these problems get addressed on a mass scale. I guess I don't know what to say but I've always hated the idea that only politicians are important enough to talk about human rights. Artists comment on the human condition all the time, why should they not be involved with these political situations as well?
Only 100km from me... 6 days and counting... :)
Music can unite
Thanks a lot to Bill and U2 members as well, you have been one of needed voices in Sarajevo during siege years and we owe you a lot. Hope two concerts in Zagreb go as well as the one in Sarajevo 1997- I still feel the emotion and got chills when I listen to that particular concert. "Sunday Bloody Sunday," One, "Ms. Sarajevo"bring me to tears. Lots of love Mssarajevo
Hearts and minds
...thank you guys for coming to Croatia... our hearts and minds are with you
the first time
I've never ever had a chance to see and hear you guys live and I finally have the ticket. I grew up with and through your music and I would really appreciate if you would play Until the end of the world, Elevation and Kite in Zagreb for the first concert in August 9th. Can't wait to feel all the love you will bring to us!!!!
Stadion Maksimir
Nice words, remember the whole thing, in those lousy times, U2 came here with the torch... love, peace and hope in coexisting....
PS Stadium in Zagreb, Maksimir, on croatian means Maksi=Maxi + Mir=Peace
Looking forward to see show, after long 12 years....
Hello from Zagreb...
Considering that I too was a refugee in that war, I can say that these 2 concerts in Zagreb on stadium Maksimir are the greatest positive thing happened in this region for a long long time. I truly believe that these concerts will be strongly memorable for people that come to Maksimir, and also for the band itself. Looking forward to 'Miss Sarajevo'... Also 'Please'. Thank you guys, thanks to U2.com.
I'm from Pula in Croatia!! I can't wait to sea the U2 finaly so close to my home!
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