April 11, 1994 Vreme News Digest Agency No 133
On learning about the suicide of Ana Mladic
Suicide And Politics
by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic
The unwritten ethics of journalism make it difficult to deal with someone's personal tragedy. All the more so when the matter concerns suicide. War, that worst of human activities has led to the breaking of all taboos, so that a suicide and the tragedy of a family become public property and a political fact.
Most of the domestic media, passed in silence over the recent suicide of Belgrade student Ana Mladic (23), daughter of the Bosnian Serb Army Commander General Ratko Mladic, believing her death to be the greatest tragedy that could affect her family. If we disregard numerous obituaries in the Belgrade daily ``Politika,'' the fact that Ana Mladic, a final year medical student, committed suicide, was recorded mostly by the foreign media.
Most of them like the ``New York Times,'' citing foreign diplomats, mentioned the suicide ``committed for unclear motives'' as the general's personal tragedy, to embark immediately on various speculations. Such as, that there is a great rift between the Bosnian Serbs; and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's conspicuous absence at Ana Mladic's funeral is taken as proof of this. The ``New York Times'' conclude that Karadzic, like Milosevic is showing a growing interest in negotiating an agreement, while the general held a different view. The paper goes on to describe Mladic as an uncompromising man and hint that it was perhaps this characteristic of his that led to his daughter's death. Writing of the funeral, another US paper mentions that, of the entire Bosnian Serb leadership, only Biljana Plavsic (Serb Republic in BH vicepresident) attended the funeral, and draws a more or less similar conclusion as to who wants peace in Bosnia, and who a prolongation of the war.
After this, the domestic media also joined in commenting the tragedy with a number of political messages tucked in between the lines. The semiofficial Bosnian Serb paper ``Jedinstvo'' brought two articles on this subject on April 2. In one the author takes it upon himself to ``protect the profession and the glitter of the general's stripes,'' debating with those who have ``defamed'' and slandered the Bosnian Serb army commander at a time when the general in pain over his daughter's death opted for silence.
On the same page, the same author says a few words about Ana Mladic. This tasteless and cheap farewell speech starts with the fact that Ana Mladic shot herself and claims that she left this world with ``a thunderous roar, just like when her Daddy is defending his people!'' The author then gives a list of reasons why a young life had to be extinguished.
``And came fate. A terrible fate. Perhaps relentless? War: the Serbs are fated to die. I ask, was it possible that a youthful heart which had just started to beat with the joy of life, should bear the burden and tears for brethren fallen throughout the former BosniaHerzegovina, was it possible to bear all those fears for her dear Father's life, for General Ratko Mladic who led his armies wherever it was necessary to prevent a new and more terrible death of the Serbs? Was it possible that Ana Mladic could tolerate all those `peacemakers' and similar trash in the Serb capital of Belgrade? She was surrounded by them day and night, as a student in Belgrade. Her young, healthy spirit and honorable patriotism, and the `Serbian milk' which she had fed upon, found it difficult to bear all that which destroyed, undermined and slandered the battle of our and her brethren in the Serb land west of the watery arteries of the Serbian cause: the Drava, Danube, Drina and Sava rivers. That is the reason why a burgeoning bud and a parent's heart had to wither...''
The Belgrade weekly ``Ilustrovana Politika'' treated the subject a little more ``subtlety'' and with less kitsch, but nonetheless with ambitions of discovering the reason (or culprit) for Ana Mladic's death. In the article Ana Mladic is described as a spirited and energetic girl not given to depressions, whose appearance and behavior did not denote a girl about to take her life. That is the way things were until the final year students' trip to Russia in February. Something broke in Ana then. After the trip she was thoughtful and melancholy. The weekly cites some of Ana's fellow students: ``She complained of an unbearable headache in Russia. She'd never had one before. There were arguments, however. Some criticized her father's role in the war in Bosnia. She defended her father's honor loyally...''
The trip to Russia was frequently mentioned at the funeral at Topcider cemetery. A close friend of the family told ``Ilustrovana Politika'' reporter: ``It is very symptomatic that Ana's behavior changed during that trip to Russia. Anything is possible today! Foreign intelligence services are everywhere and they hit where the fabric is thinnest. We, the general's fellow comrades suspect that some kind of a drug was planted.''
Another friend of the family hinted that Ana Mladic's drama started with a text published in the Belgrade weekly ``NIN,'' in early March this year, in which former editorinchief of the Yugoslav Army organ ``Narodna Armija'' Gajo Petkovic, presented Ratko Mladic in a ``different light.'' ``Ana was terribly hurt by the text,'' said the family friend. ``She cried, saying that Serbia's enemies didn't need a better argument. She called her father in Bosnia and told him that after qualifying in June, she would go to Sarajevo and help treat wounded Serbs in the hospital in Kasindolska St. Knowing his daughter's melancholy and depressive state of mind, Ratko agreed with her.''
All these stories are various facets of Ana Mladic's death and attempts at allegedly discovering all those ``responsible'' for her death. All that could be concluded at her funeral concerning her father's political fate, is just the exploitation of a death. Those who write of her death as being a magnificent act (what is magnificent in the death of a student?), and those who look on it from a political aspect (regardless of their views concerning General Ratko Mladic's role in this war), all forget the one fact which stands above all these speculationsone human life has come to an end. All the rest is political kitsch, playing on the most primitive of passions, and pouring salt on the open sores of someone's soul.