The apartment windows are filled with the sound of music, as the fast-moving accordion player serenades restaurant diners below.

The Montmartre neighborhood in Paris has had a wandering minstrel for years. Edith Piaf lived in Montmartre and Pablo Picasso had a pet mouse in his studio. This was where Picasso revolutionized art.

As if swept away, the accordionist disappeared during the heights of the French coronavirus pandemic. His squeezebox was silent for 15 months. In May, he suddenly reappeared.

The crazy thing is that his repertoire remains exactly the same in a world with so little as it was before.

Nathalie Sartor calls him “incredible” as he hangs out from her Montmartre apartment windows on a June night, singing along to his wheezy mix of tunes. “He has been playing under the window for 10+ years and his music has not changed in 10+ years.”

The few things that survived the viral storm are both comforting as well as painful reminders of the past and what is yet to come: millions of lives, livelihoods and certainty.

Sartor, 57 years old, a teacher, said, “It’s only when things start up again that it becomes apparent how difficult it was.”


The Associated Press focused on Sartor, her family in Montmartre, and a couple from Brazil to show how people try, as best they can. They are why? Their pandemic has been, in general, unremarkable. This is if you can call it a world-changing cataclysm. They and their loved ones weren’t killed. It did, however, turn their lives upside-down and is still a part of ours.

This tiny speck, a virus, has proven to be both a great leveller and a great divider of humanity. It is capable of infiltrating the cells of 7.8 billion people on Earth, no matter where or who they are. This virus has also been the greatest stress test of unity since World War II. It has prompted collective behavior changes and opened up new divisions.

The macro — countries are stealing vaccines, leaving billions unvaccinated and vulnerable to new threats. Micro-neighbors applaud medical workers, but leave them notes saying “you spread diseases”. Both friends supported and ignored one another. They interacted on virtual networks but were desocialized after months of being locked up.

It was a pandemic involving “all in this together” or “each unto himself,” a shared experience that left many feeling completely alone.