From the plane the whole panorama of Sarajevo had been laid out below revealing how the landscape of the city had changed. Much of its green open space was submerged by ranks of white grave stones, the whole made more dazzling from above by the fresh snow which softened and blurred the area into one mass of white.
The clustered neat ranks reminded him of war graves he’d seen in France and Burma though without the precise regimentation organised by the War Graves Commission. The area of the Olympic site, which he and Katya had passed through as they left the city, still had the remains of its proud buildings, twisted wrecks of metal, battered from shelling. The bobsled track had become acres of graves, one vast cemetery straddling the hillside, climbing towards the base of the higher rock faces.
Now at ground level amongst them he saw how closely the graves were packed together, side by side, neat rows making best use of the space. Some had the white pillars of Islam, others the more familiar headstones and crosses of Christian burial.
The taxi driver took them uphill towards the mountains on a lane made narrow and oppressive by the ranks of silent graves so close on either side. He sat in silence glancing at row upon row. Sarajevo’s original cemetery had long spilled over and all across the city these new sites presented a harvest of the dead.
The temperature in the open air was very cold. An icy wind scything from the east made him shiver but without a word he followed where Arif led between the rows, Esma walking behind. He wondered how they could find one single grave in all this mass but they must have been there many times because they walked with confidence straight to a grave that to him looked identical to those around it, a white pillar stood tall with a flat white stone beneath where wilted flowers lay under the snow.
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