Postcard from... Sarajevo


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The Independent Online

With the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand looming this Saturday, there is no shortage of First World War commemorative events in Sarajevo. However, reminders of a much more recent conflict remain visible.

One of the most dramatic relics of the 1990s Bosnia war lies in a suburb of the capital. A bullet-scarred house, now a museum, stands over one entrance of the tunnel that for three years was the besieged city’s only direct connection to friendly territory. Although only 25m of the 800m tunnel remain accessible, claustrophobia nonetheless sets in immediately – it’s just 1.6m high by one metre wide.

Thousands crossing during the war with huge rucksacks of weapons, medical supplies and food endured up to two hours in there, worsened by near-darkness and, occasionally, waist-high water. Coming out of the tunnel, the sight of a family sitting in their garden opposite clashes sharply with where we’ve just been.

But to find this juxtapostion of normality and war, you don’t have to go underground. Twenty years ago the man running the museum shop, for example, had a very different job: night after night, he drove lorries in pitch darkness down nearby mountain roads with supplies for the besieged city.