Music leads to healing after the Bosnian War

It is dark.  The grey sky outside matches the gloomy feel of those hiding in the streets.  Food is scarce to none. Help is a word that has lost all meaning. Buildings are in ruin from the bombs that have threatened Sarajevo.  And yet, four brave musicians stand in spite of this scene and play for their people and the hope of their city.

This was the scene Dr. Dijana Ihas lived with for three and a half years during the Bosnian War in the ’90s.  Ihas played the viola in the Sarajevo String Quartet; a group that captured the attention of the Bosnian government, rewarding it with prestigious honors for its efforts of preserving human dignity, as well as the attention of the world.

“When we played, we juxtaposed the horrible things of the war with our beautiful music,” Ihas said when she came to visit Linfield on April 19.

She came to help the choir prepare for its spring show.

“Even though spring is usually about spring fever and sun and happiness,” Anna Song, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities,  said.  “We are singing about things that are dark and opposing to that, and Dr. Ihas can hopefully help give everyone a better sense of what those things feel like.”

The group’s first show after the war began was a remarkable tale. Bombing sirens sounded as the quartet walked to its performance. However, it decided to play anyway in front of an arbor of the bombed Jewish church.

It began playing for its families who were there when others, who had been running for the safety of their homes, stopped and began to listen as well.

“As I was playing, I began crying,” Ihas said. “Because for the first time, I understood that music was not just entertainment, it is a basic necessity in life.”

The Sarajevo String Quartet played 206 shows during those dark three and a half years; in broken churches and hospitals, but for people who were finally becoming unbroken.

“Music connects us with the meanings of our lives,” Ihas said. “It helps us find the pathway to self-actualization, and I think people are beginning to see that.”

The Linfield choir will host its Spring Choral Concert May 12, hopefully learning from Ihas and taking her words to heart.


Sara Miller/For the Review

Sara Miller can be reached at