Tunnel of Hope: Sarajevo’s one and only gateway to world during War

Three decades ago, amid the siege of the 1992-1995 war, Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, witnessed the inauguration of its sole link to the outside world, the symbolically named Tunnel of Hope.

Soon after Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in a March 1, 1992 referendum, Sarajevo was besieged by Serbian forces on April 5, 1992, marking the beginning of a bloody conflict that lasted for three-and-a-half years, leaving behind immense suffering and painful memories.

The Tunnel of Hope, one of the emblems of the Bosnian War, known for some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II, was completed on July 30, 1993, after four months and four days of intense effort.

Edis Kolar, who lived in a house above the tunnel, and Velid Softic, who worked on digging out the tunnel, shared their memories of the Tunnel of Hope with Anadolu.

“Every day, thousands of people passed through the tunnel. Without this tunnel, Sarajevo could not be what it is today. Our story would have been completely different,” said Kolar.

Recalling the moment the tunnel was completed, Softic said: “We were working the first shift that day. After the tunnel was completely open, we went to the other side. The emotions we felt were incredible. I don’t remember ever being as happy as I was that day when we dug the tunnel and met the people on the other side. I had an amazing reunion with my brother-in-law.”

During the Bosnian War, the tunnel played a crucial role in connecting Sarajevo with the outside world and is estimated to have saved the lives of approximately 300,000 people. It became one of the iconic places of the war.

The tunnel, which runs under Sarajevo Airport, is approximately 800 meters (2,625 feet) long, 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide, and 1.60 meters (5.25 feet) high. After four months and four days of hard work on its excavation, it was completed on July 30, 1993.

Used during the war by Alija Izetbegovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first president, the tunnel was supported by wooden planks and logs and had tracks laid on its floor.

Besides transporting military equipment and weapons to Sarajevo, it also facilitated the delivery of food, fuel, and medicine, and helped transport the wounded to medical care.

The Tunnel of Hope remains a testament to the resilience and courage of the people of Sarajevo during the war, symbolizing the struggle for survival and hope in even the darkest times.

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