Tunnel Museum, Sarajevo
It was a bit eerie to hear of Richard Holbrooke’s collapse and passing while we were on this trip. Holbrooke was largely responsible for the Dayton Accord that ended the 1992-1995
war between Bosnia and Serbia conflict within Bosnia. Sarajevo was under siege for three and a half years, but now there is surprisingly little evidence of the massive destruction that occurred in the city. (Other areas have not recovered as quickly.) To have a better understanding of the impact of the war, we decided to go to the Tunnel Museum and National History Museum.
The Tunnel Museum is at the site of a formerly secret tunnel used to move people and supplies into Sarajevo during the war. At the time, Sarajevo was completely surrounded by Serbian forces, making it impossible to move people, supplies or munitions via roads.
The tunnel was dug by volunteers in the shed of a home. It took 3 and a half months to dig a 5 foot high, 3,150 foot long tunnel. Most of the work was done by older men, since the younger ones were fighting the war.
A film at the museum shows children, farm animals, soldiers and supplies moved through the tunnel, which was often filled with water. We walked through the short part of the tunnel opened for visitors. Despite the dry ground and our ski-grade winter clothing, it was freezing. The low ceilings and uneven ground made us shuffle, half-bent over, to walk a mere 20 meters. It’s hard to imagine that one million people passed through the tunnel during the war.
We later went to the National Museum, where photos show the destruction of the city, the victims of violence, and the struggle to survive amidst the ruins. Among the photos is one of the Sarajevo Philharmonic performing in 1994, in the ruins of their city hall building. I couldn’t find it online, but I encourage others to search for it-and to let me know where they find it.
This post is not intended to judge the war in Bosnia. There are rarely any good actors in war, and certainly not in this one. But the tunnel is a testament to the desperation, and horror of war, as well as the lengths people will go to survive. It was a sobering view of a war that ended a mere 20 years ago.