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Thursday, August 5, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sarajevo's Olympic Seats Are Now Coffin Boards

London Observer Service

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - For the past two months, Muhamed Cavdar has made a twice-weekly visit to Sarajevo's Zetra Olympic stadium - not to remember the glory that was the 1984 Winter Games, but to pry loose its wooden seats so he can fashion them into coffins for the Muslim war dead.

While he has contemplated the symbolism of his work, Cavdar, 62, notes that the games were the past and his work is the present.

"I am not a philosopher. I am a woodworker," he says. "We have permission from the city to go to Zetra and use the wood. I am a man with limited choices."

Cavdar carries the lacquered planks to his makeshift shop behind a combination mosque and morgue, planes them and knocks them into simple, three-sided frames ready for immediate use.

Cavdar says he'd prefer to be fighting on the front line, but the army and politicians have promised him a lot of work while the war grinds on.

"I will have plenty to do," he says while sizing up a strip of wood for the coffin of a 19-year-old Turkish journalist killed the day before by sniper fire. "Look at this poor boy, his features are so fine."

Cavdar's boss, Asim Mahmutovic, 42, said he and his 12 employees must work long hours to keep up with demand.

Mahmutovic has begun burying some people at night because the Serbs regularly shell funerals that attract large crowds.

Cavdar and Mahmutovic must also consider whether someone accompanies Cavdar when he fetches more wood from Zetra.

"I can go by myself," Cavdar says. "I think it's too dangerous for two of us to go. The other day the sniper was very busy. Two of us would give him more work."

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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