A JOURNEY THROUGH THE TUNNEL // 11. 1994.
GERTRUDA MUNITIC // PRIMADONNA OF THE SARAJEVO OPERA
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

November 1994

Gertruda Munitic
Primadonna of the Sarajevo Opera
A JOURNEY THROUGH THE TUNNEL

‘It was five in the morning when the car drove me to the entrance of the tunnel. The tunnel was so small that I hadn't even noticed it, all the time I was asking the driver where the tunnel was. It's right here, he said and I could not believe it, I said that it was a hole. How are we going to pass through that tunnel? And to be honest, I have a fear of closed spaces, some kind of phobia. I don't like small rooms and I don't like heights either. But I had no idea what was yet to come. So we stepped closer to that tunnel and waited for my luggage. The person that pushed the little wagon with my luggage on it advised me to sit on it because the tunnel was so narrow and small that it was impossible that two persons walk through at in the same time from opposite directions. And it was a bunch of people besides me, ten or twenty of them. It was an interesting situation, funny I should say. I'm always in a positive mood and I always want to make the best out of gloomy situations, of course, I was afraid of that tunnel, more than I was afraid of the shells in Sarajevo. I sat on my suitcases, and while that man was pushing the wagon, I started, ‘la la la la, O sole mio, la la la.’ It was still in a quiet voice, ‘kore, kore, ingrato, and then, haaaaaaaaa’, and the people behind me said, ‘please don't Gertruda’, but again to give me some strength I started, ‘aaaaaaaa’. They begged me to stop, ‘Please Gertruda, don't do this, this whole tunnel is going to collapse on us’. And then we started to laugh and that hundred or more meters of tunnel just disappeared in a moment and we were on the other side. Outside there was fighting. We kept our heads down waiting in the mood for things to get quiet. We went to Mrs Fata, to spend the night and she was very kind. But it all lasted for a long time. Not until the next day, four in the morning, could we continue on our way to Igman. Everyone was on foot. They had some kind of rope railway there but people walked and it was very, very high. When I saw how high it was I said, ‘mama mia, I can't climb this, no way. No way, I'm not going.’ But I got a wagon and I took my chances. I had a 'feeling', a sixth sense. I always paid attention to what my instincts were telling me, to what my guardian angel was saying. Because, we all have it, you only have to listen to it. And I developed that during the war. I said to my driver, don't worry, I can feel that not even one shell is going to fall while we are climbing Igman. And he said, I don't think so Mrs Gertruda, I was here yesterday and a shell fell two meters from me. But I repeated that it would not, today. So, we started to climb. I was watching people climbing from one side while we were making turns. I was very calm, but the driver was nervous. He did not know which way to choose where to go. He showed me all the positions from where we could be shot. Finally, we got to the top and he said: ‘This can't be true, they haven't fired a shot, and I can't believe it.’ And then the tire exploded.’

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NOVEMBER 1994


• The Army of BiH liberates the mountains of Bjelasnica and Treskavica, near Sarajevo. United States rejects the idea of General Rose to strike the ARBiH.


• Kupres is liberated with the combined forces of the HVO and ARBiH.
• From Osmica on Igman buses travel to Zagreb, Split and Zenica.
• New York, November 5th, 1994 a new resolution on Bosnia adopted in which the UN General Assembly urges the Security Council to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia, if over the next six months the Bosnian Serbs do not sign a peace treaty. 97 countries vote in favor of the resolution, while 61 countries in the General Assembly refrain. No country votes against.


• The ARBiH counters the renewed attack on Sarajevo. NATO planes fly low, and fighting ceases.
• The average wage in the city is 2 DM; for a family approximately a 350 DM salary is needed.


• The financier and philanthropist, and founder of the "Open Society Foundation", George Soros accuses UNPROFOR Commander General Michael Rose, for being pro-Serb. "UNPROFOR has become the kapo of a concentration camp."


• U.S. will no longer oversee the arms embargo on the Government of BiH. The command is issued to the U.S. Navy to no longer intercept ships carrying weapons for the Government of BiH.


• "Miss World" pageant held in South Africa. President Nelson Mandela is surrounded by 87 beauties.


• In a speech at the Royal Geographical Society in London, Lord Owen says: "Humanitarian intervention was a fatal mistake. Without humanitarian aid, the war would have already finished."


• Radovan Karadzic’s message to Croatia, "I will bomb Zagreb if you continue to support the Muslims around Bihac."
• Secretary General of NATO, Willy Claes: "The time has come for action."


• NATO bombs the airport in Udbina. 30 planes fly in the mission. All planned objectives are hit: the runway is destroyed, while the aircraft are intact. SAM 7 missiles are fired at NATO planes. The aim of the operation: prevention of future attacks by the Serb army on Bihac. It was at the time biggest action undertaken by NATO in its history.


• William Perry: "If they again carry out a bomb attack, we will return and destroy their planes." Michael Rose: "We are here to help deliver humanitarian aid and maintain the survival of the surrounding areas, and in addition we are here to support the legitimate government of this country. Because of this, unfortunately, from time to time we need to use force in self-defense, and to support the territorial exclusion zone." Akashi notifies the Bosnian Serb about the attack, and then travels to Pale to apologize for the attack.


• An even fiercer attack by the Bosnian Serb Army on Bihac follows. Buzim and civilian targets are bombed.
• Throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian Serbs block UN arms checkpoins and block UN movement.
• A tram is hit: one passenger killed, 6 wounded.


• NATO has offered the UN a number of solutions: for example, successive air strikes. The UN refuses. It turns out that the world's military potential will be employed in a rescue operation of the UN in Bosnia, not of Bosnia itself. The UN resolution on the “safe areas” and the ban on flights are violated.


• In the wartime cinema "Apollo" a festival is held: "Days of Swiss Film."
• Airport: Negotiations on a cease-fire. General Rose is the mediator in the negotiations. A ceasefire is agreed upon for the entire country. 2,000 U.S. Marines head to Bosnia to rescue the UN and to give support to NATO.


• Meeting: Willy Claes, Andrei Kozyrev, Haris Silajdzic. Kozyrev discusses Russian opposition to further punitive action.
• Vatican: Vinko Puljic appointed Cardinal.
• Sarajevo shelled.


• The Fifth Corps of the ARBiH manages to repel attacks in Bihac's Krajina. The UN fails to protect the Bihac "safe area". The UN: "We have only words, not the means."
• The U.S. Congress, Newt Gingrich: "If we want to break the will of the Serbs, then NATO should lead an action to break down the will of the Serbs. Occasional tactical strikes are extremely ineffective in intimidating the enemy, which is a lesson from Vietnam. "
• The Bosnian Serbs blocked 495 UN personnel throughout Bosnia.
• The Queen of England wins $17.70 in the lottery, which divided between 18 members of her court.


• The French Library opens in Sarajevo.

Cultural survival

The besieged city defends itself by culture and thus survives. Groups and individuals create whatever they used to create before the siege In impossible circumstances they produce films, write books, publish newspapers, produce radio programs, design postcards, stage exhibitions, performances, make blueprints for rebuilding the city, found new banks, organize fashion shows, shoot photographs, celebrate holidays, put on make up... Sarajevo is the city of the future and of the life in the post-cataclysm. In it on the ruins of the old civilization a new one is sprouting, an alternative one, composed of remains of urban elements Sarajevo lives a life of futuristic comics and science fiction movies.

CULTURAL SURVIVAL

Sarajevo is a unique city on the planet. It is the site where our civilization has been dismantled in the course of intentional violence.
But Sarajevo is also the symbol of civil defense, the site where violence has been fought back with tolerance, fascism with art and culture, destruction with rebuilding, death with humour, the outburst of rural culture with the one that's urban terror with stubborn maintaining of normal city lifestyle.
Sarajevo has been deprived of all the civil, existential and social rights. It has been deprived of the right to live. Everything that makes normal urban living has been taken away from Sarajevo and its citizens, everything that could have been taken away has been taken away, all except for the right to survive by maintaining the right to culture.
But among all that destruction and dying, kids are being born, birthdays celebrated, weddings carried out. In the city surrounded by the deadly circle of primitivism the exhibitions are being opened, movies made, festivals organized, theatre plays and musicals performed.
Sarajevo lives the post-cataclysm. It is the picture of civilization emerging out of cataclysm, making something out of nothing, giving messages for the future.
Not because the future is necessarily a future of wars and disasters, but because humans are growing older and being born into a world which is ever less secure.
All that has been left under the ruins of Sarajevo, all that has survived the shelling of our civilization is the spirit of the cultural survival. The reconstruction of that spirit, the spirit of Sarajevo must start – now. Otherwise – Sarajevo will become the graveyard of the principles of multiethnicity and human rights.

THE TUNNEL

The Dobrinja-Butmir tunnel, a hole some 1.2 meters wide, 1.6 meters high and 760 meters long, is situated under the Sarajevo airport runway. In the official communication between local politicians and UNPROFOR this public secret has been referred to as “the non-existent tunnel”. Foreigners were not allowed into the tunnel and journalists were offering up to 5.000 DM for just one shot of the tunnel. Although the tunnel was an military object and intended solely for the army’s getting in and out of town, the privilege of using it was extended to the American ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Viktor Jakovic, who the aggressor did not allow to leave the city by plane. The tunnel was also used to get the members of Parliament from other towns into the city. Many of them were easily recognized during the sessions of Parliament because they had bruises on their foreheads from hitting the iron support bars within the tunnel. Some comfort was extended to the most respected politicians who were pushed through the tunnel in small wagons.
The commercialization of the tunnel brought about great changes in the economic life of the city. The tunnel became a place full of people dragging bags with potatoes o eggs. Many tradesmen were allowed to “rent” the tunnel from the army. Thanks to the tunnel many became rich, but the prices also fell within the city. The aggressor also knew about the secret tunnel and by continuously shelling its entrance it hampered its usage. They even tried to dig another tunnel of the other side of the airport in order to redirect the Zeljeznica river and flood the tunnel. In spite of everything the hole under the airport became the greatest public good of the city and it’s only link with the rest of the world. If one managed to get a permit to go through the tunnel he or she would be greeted at the exit by a marker-written sign: PARIS 3765km.

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