Sarajevo marks the 26th Anniversary of Excavation of the Tunnel of Hope

July 29, 2019 1:00 PM

Marking of 26th anniversary of the excavation and putting the Tunnel D-B into operation will take place today at the location of the Memorial Complex of Tunnel D-B in the organization of the Memorial Fund.

 

During the 1992–95 siege, when Sarajevo was surrounded by Bosnian Serb forces, the only link to the outside world was an 800m-long, 1m-wide, 1.6m-high tunnel between two houses on opposite sides of the airport runway. Walking through a 25m section is the moving culmination of a visit to the shell-pounded house which hid the western tunnel entrance.

Although the airport was supposedly neutral and under tenuous UN control during the conflict, crossing it would have been suicidal. The solution was to secretly build the tunnel, which was eventually equipped with rails to transport food and arms. That proved just enough to keep Sarajevo supplied during nearly four years of siege.

Construction of the tunnel began in secret on 1 March 1993 under the codename “Objekt BD”. The tunnel was to link Butmir and Dobrinja, two Bosnia-held neighborhoods; one inside Serbian siege lines and the other outside. Nedžad Branković, a Bosnian civil engineer, created the plans for the tunnel’s construction underneath the Sarajevo airport runway. However, because of the urgency of the construction, full costing and technical specifications were never made.

The construction was assigned to the First Corps Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina under the supervision of deputy commander General Rašid Zorlak. Beginning the project was difficult as there was a lack of skilled manpower, tools, and materials to complete the task. Consequently, the tunnel was dug by hand, with shovels and picks, and wheelbarrows were used to carry 1,200 cubic meters of detritus away. The tunnel was dug 24-hours a day, with workers working in 8-hour shifts digging from opposite ends. Its construction was financed by the State, the Army, and the City of Sarajevo. The workers were paid with one packet of cigarettes per day, an item that was in high demand and a prized bartering possession.

A total of 2,800 square meters of soil was removed. 170 square meters of wood and 45 tons of steel were used in the construction of the tunnel. The biggest technical problem was the underground water, which had to be frequently thrown out manually. Because of the permanent shelling, the tunnel was installed with a pipeline that was used for the delivery of oil for the town. Communication lines and electric cables donated by Germany were also installed so that Sarajevo had electricity and telephone lines connecting it with the world.

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