Bosnian Journal

By Joe Rubin

Ratko Mladic Ratko Mladic

Mladic and the Future of a New Generation of Serbs

In Belgrade, I have dinner at the apartment of Saska and her husband, Rade, who is also a journalist, and their 2-year-old daughter, Martha. When I was here two years ago, I smoked a cigar with Rade to celebrate Martha’s birth. It is amazing now to see her talking so much, singing Serbian songs and smiling so beautifully. It makes me miss Ginger, my own daughter. Saska, who is always filled with challenging statements, says she feels that the international community is waiting to see if “Serbia can deal with the Mladic issue in an adult way. I think that this is a fair test.”

I can hear Saska’s bitter disappointment in the Mladic issue. Six years ago, when I first came to Belgrade to report a documentary for Nightline, I saw Saska and Rade suffering so much under Milosevic and risking their lives as journalists. (Rade’s editor at the paper where he worked was assassinated in 1999, almost certainly on orders by Milosevic.)

After so valiantly fighting Milosevic, to now be mired in such intractable politics, in a lack of economic progress and in a game involving the handover of a war criminal like Mladic are tough pills to swallow. For Saska and Rade, the handover of Mladic isn’t just an intellectual or moral issue, it’s personal. It’s about their future and especially Martha’s. What kind of Serbia will Martha grow up in? This is the question playing itself out in Brussels as the European Union debates how tough to get with Serbia. And it’s the question that Kostunica must be pondering at this moment: whether to keep Mladic hidden to appease the ultranationalists to his right or take a gutsier path and once and for all move Serbia out of the shadows.

Back to top

“Bosnia: The Men Who Got Away” is Joe Rubin’s third broadcast story for FRONTLINE/World. He has produced and reported for ABC’s Nightline, including his 2000 documentary on an emerging resistance movement against Slobodan Milosevic, which got him hooked on the Balkans. He also produced the Rough Cut “Dark Shadows,” which covers the rise of nationalism in Serbia. An unbridled enthusiast for the possibilities of video journalism, Rubin spent time in Latin America as a Knight Fellow, where he taught digital journalism in Panama, El Salvador and Ecuador. Recently, Rubin’s been working on the Pitch Room, a program in development with HBO. He lives in San Francisco.