Advantages An important piece of recent history, interesting, enlightening
Disadvantages Not a great deal to see so for the really interested only
In the mid 1990s I watched television news bulletins transfixed at the pictures coming from the besieged city of Sarajevo. For over four years the people of Sarajevo were trapped in their city, often cold, usually hungry as missiles rained down on them. In spite of many months of fierce attack plucky Sarajevo managed to defend itself – thanks mainly to an 800 metre tunnel that connected the city with “Free Bosnia”.
You might well ask why the tunnel was not used to evacuate the city – at least to free civilians who weren’t actively involved in the defence of the city. Quite simply, the tunnel was a useful propaganda tool. The government recognised that only by highlighting the plight of the Bosnian people trapped inside the besieged city could they hope to win the support of the international community and so they placed a heavy restriction on the number of people allowed to leave. Getting to use the tunnel was almost impossible; you needed written permission and obtaining it was not only a slow process but a dangerous one too as you’d have to venture outside of your house and make your way – usually under fire – to offices in the city centre to make your request. Everyone needed money to buy food at inflated prices from the market - even those who issued the paperwork; it was not unsual for people to pay quite large sums of money to buy a ticket through the tunnel.A steady (but still woefully insufficient) stream of aid made its way into Sarajevo through the tunnel on the backs of soldiers and other volunteers. At times the tunnel was knee deep in water and the volunteers would bump their heads on the beams of the low roof. As I walked, bent over, through the 20 metres or so that still exist, I couldn’t help but feel deep admiration for those people who trudged the whole way time and again, knowing that without these goods, the suffering of Sarajevans would be even greater. When I blinked in the sunlight and felt the warm sun on my skin I was relieved to be out of the cramped tunnel; those people who climbed out of the tunnel during the war might still have shelling to contend with and the goods they had brought still had somehow to reach the city itself.
The house under which the city entrance of the tunnel sits is now a museum. It’s in a small village on the edge of the city, just within sight of the airport.
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