When Swan Lake Comes to Sarajevo is the compelling account of musician Ruth Waterman who volunteers to work with and conduct the Mostar Sinfonietta in Bosnia following the war and genocide that tore the country apart.  Ruth speaks about the work she did with musicians who had suffered a great deal through the war.  As a backdrop to her story and the challenges she faced in her volunteer role, she shares the first hand accounts of the musicians she worked with who told her their stories and the rebuilding of the famous Stari Most bridge in Mostar – which she uses as a symbol throughout the book. 

She talks about the importance and difficulties in rebuilding a community after atrocity and says that through her work, she’s seen how quickly these communities can be torn apart

I'm beginning to understand the nuts and bolts of how a village can be  split, how neighbours can become enemies, how people can be broken,  how a society can fall apart...you don't need a violent society.  Or a backward society. You just need someone to set the ball rolling

About the author

Ruth Waterman is a musician who is renowned across the world.  Based in the UK, she has toured extensively internationally, including participating in the HMD 07 UK event. 

Discussion Questions

Please note that some of these questions will act as spoilers for the book.

1.  why do you think the musicians tell Ruth  their stories? Is it easy for her to listen to them?

2.  what motivates Aiden, Nigel and Ruth to volunteer with the Mostar Sinfonietta?

3.  what difficulties does Ruth face?

4.  why do you think Ruth uses the technical details of the rebuilding of Stari Most within her book?

5.  what role can music play in rebuilding a community?

You can use HMD resources to find out more about:

The Genocide in Bosnia

You could explore using music as a part of your HMD activity. 

Download this book group activity