Just over a hundred years ago, on the fateful morning of June 28, 1914, a car took a wrong turn and a royal couple was assassinated. This assassination triggered a chain of events that led to the death of millions of people.
In modern history, there doesn’t exist a better example of a single incident that shaped the entire world. But for all its historic importance, the assassination would not have happened, if it weren’t for a wrong decision and a wrong turn, that placed the royal couple face to face in the path of the assassin.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne along with his wife Sophie Chotek arrived in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital. Back in 1908, the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary had annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the Ottoman Empire. But nearby Serbia hungry for its own territorial expansion wanted Bosnia and Herzegovina in its fold.
June 28, was a significant date for Serbia as it commemorated the anniversary of the Serbian defeat in the battle of Kosovo at the hands of the Ottomans in 1389. So, June was a time for patriotism in Serbia.
Serbia saw the forthcoming archduke’s visit to Sarajevo as an insult—and they decided to strike back.
On the fateful morning of June 28, 1914, the Archduke and his wife arrived in Sarajevo by train and the entire motorcade including that of the governor of Sarajevo began its journey as per a pre-announced program.
Despite warnings of possible terrorist attacks during their visit to Bosnia, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie ignoring precautions travelled in an open car, with the route of travel also made public well beforehand.
Seven young Serbian armed with loaded revolvers and bodies strapped with explosives placed themselves along the intended route with a single target in mind: Austria’s heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The assailants were carrying Cyanide pills to commit suicide in case of their capture.
The royal motorcade crossed two assassins who failed to act, so the third assassin named Nedeljko Cabrinovic lobbed a bomb he was carrying towards the car, but unfortunately missed the Archduke’s car and exploded near the next car in the motorcade.
Wary of being caught Čabrinović in true terrorist fashion swallowed his Cyanide pill and threw himself into the nearby river to evade arrest, but unfortunately, the river was almost dry and the cyanide did not quite work. He was finally captured and severely beaten. Very strangely rather than calling off the visit the Archduke decided to continue with his tour.
The royal motorcade sped away and arrived at the Sarajevo town hall for the scheduled reception. After the reception, the royal couple decided to visit the injured at the nearby hospital.
The couple boarded the motorcade. For security reasons, it was decided that the couple’s car should avoid the city centre and take a different route to the hospital avoiding the planned route along Franz Joseph Street.
However, as destiny may have it the driver, Leopold Lojka did not get the revised order about the changed itinerary and took a wrong turn into the old route towards Franz Josef Street.
Unfortunately, this wrong turn bought them in close range to a 19-year-old assassin Gavrilo Princip who was stationed along the route. As the universe conspired, the driver, upon being told about the changed route stopped and then tried to reverse the car. But while doing so the car engine stalled and the gears locked giving the young Princip an unexpected opportunity. Not missing on the opportunity, Princip stepped forward and fired two shots from a distance of just five feet.
The couple was rushed to the Governor’s residence for immediate medical treatment, but could not be saved.
It is said that the Archduke’s last words were, “Sophie, Sophie! Don’t die! Live for our children.”
Europe was already a ticking time bomb. As the universe conspired, this single event – the assassination of the Archduke caused by a fateful wrong turn– provided the necessary spark, triggering a chain of events upsetting a fragile balance of power in Europe ultimately resulting in the first world war in less than a month.
The first world war has been described as one of the bloodiest wars in history, where millions lost their lives and affected almost the entire world in one way or another.
A calamity that led to other calamities. Without World War 1, there would have been no World War II, no Pearl Harbour, no Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and so forth. It shaped and continues to shape the world as it exists today.
But the question still remains: Can one wrong turn, truly change the course of human history?
Apply this question to your life: Can one wrong decision change the trajectory of your life?
Yes, you can undo your entire life and career in a moment. Yes, you can destroy your entire life with just one wrong decision. Sometimes only a small decision you take can alter your life forever.
I know the thought that how the smallest decision you made that day has the power to change your life five years from now, is indeed very terrifying which can keep you awake at night thinking about it.
You cannot go through the journey of life without making decisions every single day- Some good, some bad. But there are some that are guaranteed to mess up your life and change the course of your life forever. One wrong decision can lead you down the wrong path.
“Do I do this; do I do that?” “Do I turn right; do I turn left?” Everything you do and every decision you make lead you on a path.
Have you ever heard the butterfly effect?
It refers to the idea that tiny changes like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can change initial conditions in the atmosphere that can alter the path of a tornado elsewhere on the planet. This concept is based on the idea that small causes can have large effects.
So, if we think about the butterfly effect in terms of our lives, seemingly small decisions, small actions, minor encounters, and inconsequential choices aren’t small or inconsequential at all. A decision as small as making a wrong turn can have a major impact on our lives somewhere down the line.
That is why it is so important for us to be conscious and aware of the decisions we make, no matter how small they seem to be. The thoughts we have, the words we speak, and the company we keep all matter and affect the outcomes we receive in the future.
But does life really work this way? I would love to know your view on the butterfly effect in the comments section below!
Happy Right Decision Making!