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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Tunnel of Life

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Tunnel of Life | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Europe

[Visited: May 2014]

The lady at the counter of the airport told me that I could easily reach the Tunnel of Life museum by walking around the runway, so I set off walking with all my luggage; for security reasons, there are no left luggage facilities at the airport. The first part was not particularly nice as I had to walk the main road. I saw several apartment blocks on my left that still had bullet holes in their walls - the siege of Sarajevo is still visible in many places. There were no signs, and when the main road veered away from the runway, I was suspicious, and took a smaller road which led directly to the entrance of the EUFOR gates. There was no way I could enter; I had to backtrack and then take another road parallel to the runway. By this time, I cursed the lady of the information desk not having been clearer about this, and I just hoped I would make it before closure time.

Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): The museum of the Tunnel of Life is located in the house in which the tunnel was built

It was easy to spot the museum: there is a Bosnian flag outside, and this house, too, still bears the scars of war in the form of bullet holes. The guys inside were friendly enough and took my bag, so I could walk around the museum freely. At one of the information boards, I listened to a local guy who was giving his vision on the siege of Sarajevo, the history of Bosnia, its place within Europe, and more issues. While listening, I looked at the boards, which explained how the city was totally surrounded by enemy forces that kept it under control for more than 3 years. The airport was a designated UN area, and this fact was exploited by the Bosnian army. I went to the video room in the basement, where I learnt that the project had been a highly secretive operation. Even the soldiers initially did not know what they were building. It was important that the enemy did not know what was going on, so they could not destroy the tunnel.

Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): The beginning of the Tunnel of Life is accessible to visitors of the museum

Construction started on March 1, 1993 and was completed within 3 months, with soldiers working around the clock from both the Butmir and Dobrinja side. The soldiers worked with primitive equipment, and were only paid with one pack of cigarettes a day. The narrow tunnel had rails, on which a wagon could go back and forth, ferrying good ad weapons from Bosnian territory to the besieged city of Sarajevo. Moreover, a large amount of people fled the city using the tunnel. When asked what was the most precious thing taken through the tunnel, one of the local guides told me: Hope. Knowing that there was a line with the outside world, that there was a tunnel that could supply the city with goods, reinforced the belief of the citizens of Sarajevo that they could survive the war. Of course, I descend into the tunnel, and walk to the end of the accessible part of it; apparently, there are plans to re-open the tunnel all the way to the other side. I visit the small museum upstairs, see the first designs for the tunnel, the famous visitors the place has seen. I also see pictures of the Kolar family, who still own the house: their house had been chosen, and served as the cover-up of building the life-saving tunnel that, therefore, was dubbed the Tunnel of Life.

Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): The designs for the Tunnel of Life on display inside the museum
Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Graphic explanation of the siege of Sarajevo and the importance of the Tunnel of Life
Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Images showing the destruction in Sarajevo during the siege
Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Cart on rails on display in the museum of the Tunnel of Life
Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Board explaining the siege of Sarajevo outside the museum
Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Several artifacts on display in the museum
Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Exhibition of famous visitors of the museum of the Tunnel of Life
Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): This grenade still remains in the floor of the museum of the Tunnel of Life
Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Military uniforms in the museum of the Tunnel of Life
Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Landmine warning sign outside the museum of the Tunnel of Life
Picture of Tunnel of Life (Bosnia and Herzegovina): A video about the Tunnel of Life on display in this room inside the museum

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