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From Olympic to Siege City – The Secret Tunnel of Hope in Sarajevo

Looking down from the panoramic view point of Sarajevo. A beautiful multi-ethnic city and Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Capital, once held the Olympics (in 1984) with honour, had turned in a war zone in the siege in the 1990’s. Sarajevo siege started in April 1992 and ended in February 1996. It was the longest siege in the history of modern warfare and was on the verge of annihilation. It was only a secret tunnel, beneath to the front line that saved the Country.

Sarajevo was surrounded by the Serbian army. It had no way out, they were in power high up in the mountains that surrounded the city. The first things that they attacked were:

  • The post office- to destroy their methods of communication

  • The main electrical station- to remove any type of warmth and light

  • The main water supplies- to kill them of thirst

  • The main TV Station- to disconnect them from any news and deprive them of information

It was war! The people of Sarajevo suffered with no electricity to keep them warm or water to keep them hydrated. They were surrounded from all sides and couldn’t bring in food. If you tried to make a run for it, they would leave your dead body lying on the streets.

A part of the city had gone under the Serb’s control and this was bad news. They turned the area into concentration camps. The Bosnian didn’t have an army, Yugoslavia, part of their own army has turned on them. Deceivingly they ‘borrowed the arms for training’ and started attacking Sarajevo. Something had to be done and fast. People needed to get out the other side of Sarajevo to bring in supplies.

After some time, the city started running out of supplies, when someone came up with the brilliant idea to dig a tunnel connecting two neighbourhoods. Starting from Butmir area, under the airport’s runway to the other side, Dobrinja (the only small territory which was still under Bosnia’s control), through front line trenches. It took 4 months 4 days to dig the tunnel. The Tunnel of Hope, was finished in July 1993. It was top secret only a few knew about it. The tunnel started from a kind woman’s residential home. It was 800 meters long, 1 meter wide and only 1.6 meters high. It was hard for them to carry due to its height, they had to crouch their back to walk through with weight on their backs. It was particularly hard when the rain flooded it knee high deep. But it was the only way of Salvation. The way how Bosnian started bringing in the food and the weapons which made them stronger and stronger.

At least 330 bomb shells rained the city daily in a siege that lasted 1425 days, nearly 4 whole years! 11000 people died including 1601 children.

Today the city keep at least a 100 bomb shell marks, painted in red that represents blood. The blood of those who lost their lives in the siege. They call them the Sarajevo Roses, memorials to all those who have fought courageously to keep their country safe.

Thankfully the war ended in 1996, but Serbia’s army left too many mines on their land. Leaving many deaths even after the war. Now 70% of the mines have been cleared, but there is still 30% of uncertainty and fear.

The Tunnel of Hope is definitely one of the main highlights when visiting Sarajevo. It is not easily reachable by Public transport and a taxi can be pricey as the tunnel is quite far out the city’s centre. The best way to explore this great landmark is with Invicta Travel. Invicta travel has given us a great experience of Sarajevo and they provided an English speaking guide who did the job so great that it felt like we were taken back in time to the 90's when Sarajevo was in the Siege. Invicta travel also provides other tours check out their website here.

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