Sneak Peek #5: The Tunnel That Saved Bosnia

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The Jan/Feb issue of mental_floss hits newsstands soon, so we're continuing with our week-long preview of the magazine's stories. While I have a vague understanding of the Bosnia-Serbia conflict, the truth is, I know very little about the history. But the story of this tunnel, which was dug under the house of middle-class family man Bajro Kolar and led to a garage in the city, was utterly fascinating to me. Here's just a glimpse at the impact:

Saving a City

Screen shot 2009-11-17 at 6.16.24 PMThe Sarajevo Tunnel was like the Trojan Horse of the Bosnian War—Historians estimate that over one million trips were taken through the shaft, importing about 20 million tons of food. Machine-guns and crates of ammunition also flooded through the Tunnel, helping the Bosnian army defend itself against the well-armed Serbs.

There was nothing romantic about a trip through the Tunnel. Dark, dirty, and cold, it flooded with muddy water every spring. The passage was so narrow and crowded that a one-way trip could take as long as two hours. And the constant explosions outside vibrated through the walls and threatened the support beams. Luckily, no part of the passage ever collapsed.

By the end of the siege, countless people had passed through safely, including Alija Izetbegović, the president of Bosnia at the time. For the sake his country, Izetbegović needed to make appearances on both sides of the Serb lines, and the Tunnel was the only dependable route. Still, it wasn't easy: At one point, Izetbegović was wheelchair-bound, and had to be pushed through the corridor on the primitive railway. According to popular lore, Kolar pushed the wheelchair himself.
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If you're like me, and know very little about the situation, the story is illuminating. Go ahead and pick up the new magazine on newsstands. Or better yet, pair the subscription with a brand new mental_floss T-shirt and save yourself some money. Click here for details.

December 16, 2009 - 5:21am
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