AFP, April 07, 2001
Serbia's notorious couple apart for the first time
BELGRADE, April 7 (AFP) -
For the first time in their 36-year marriage, they are really separated. They can see each other only for an hour a day, with a less than spotless pane of plastic glass between them, and they are never alone.
Just six months ago, such a situation could hardly be imagined, even by the fiercest opponents of Slobodan Milosevic, 59, and his wife Mira Markovic, 58.
The couple which ruled Serbia for more than 13 years are now going through the toughest moments of their lives, with Milosevic facing a long jail term and Markovic visiting her husband in prison, just like any other wife of a criminal suspect.
This can hardly be what Markovic had in mind when she told her writer friend Ljiljana Habjanovic-Djurisic in 1994 that "when I turn 60" in 2002, "I want my husband out of politics and imagine the two us vacationing abroad, maybe in some Swiss resort."
"There was no woman in the history of Serbia who had such a huge influence on state issues as Mira Markovic," said journalist Slavoljub Djukic, who has written four books dedicated to the couple.
Djukic, who lost his job in the prominent Serbian daily Politika just after Milosevic came to power, said Markovic would be "remembered as the only woman whose love was paid by unlimited power."
"She cleared a path for his career and finally destroyed it like a praying mantis," Djukic said.
The couple were childhood sweethearts in their home town of Pozarevac, 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of of Belgrade.
Both lonely children of unhappy families, they met in high school, immediately bonded through a past of family tragedies and created their own world, marked by an almost pathologic link between them.
Milosevic was a naturally taciturn youth, the son of a Montenegrin Orthodox theologian and a communist mother, both of whom committed suicide.
Markovic was the daughter of a World War II partisan couple and her mother, whose nom du guerre Mira she preferred to her own name Mirjana, was executed in 1944, officially by the Gestapo, but in circumstances that remain unclear.
After the two met, Mira "had no more fears. She was not afraid of the cold, the dark... or bad grades in school. He was always on her side, no matter if she was right or wrong," Habjanovic wrote in the magazine Duga.
Like Milosevic, Markovic was also suspicious of the public eye, but unlike him, she wrote pages of magazine columns in the 1990s, first in Duga, and later in the women magazine's Bazar.
Those columns, widely scrutinised by reporters and even politicians deprived of direct contact with the couple, were read as a "forecast" of Milosevic's future moves.
But they were also full of pathetic descriptions of Markovic's visions of nature, friendships and sometimes even intimate notions of their two children: Marija, 36 and Marko, 26.
Marija "is less ambitious, less disciplined and less sensitive" than her mother, "not romantic at all," while Marko "likes to play with his cars, just like when he was a child," Markovic wrote in her column in 1995.
During the 1999 NATO bombing campaign on Yugoslavia, Markovic angrily wrote a letter to the British Foreign Minister Robin Cook after he alleged Milosevic's family had left the country during the air war.
"My children are in the country, taking care not only of their families, but also defending the homeland, as every true patriot should do," Markovic protested.
After Milosevic was ousted from the Yugoslav presidency last October, Marija reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown, shooting dead her former lover's dog and smashing all the windows in her luxurious Belgrade villa.
After a brief marriage, Marija Milosevic led the life of a spoiled, gun-loving rich brat, insisting she "thought no more about marriage and children."
"Holding a gun in one hand and a baby in the other is a little complicated and awkward," she said in one of the rare interviews.
A radio and TV station she had controlled in the late 1990s, founded by several state-own companies during Milosevic's rule, were taken away from her by the reformers after ousting her father.
She was rarely mentioned until Sunday's arrest of her father, when she allegedly opened fire on the key government negotiatior, winning herself a criminal investigation for illegal possession of arms.
The whereabouts of Marko, a former racing car driver and disco club owner, with rumored business ties with the underworld, have been unclear since he used a fake diplomatic passport to flee the country last October, heading for Russia.
His wife Milica and the couple's two-year-old son Marko junior returned to Pozarevac even before her father-in-law was arrested.
Milosevic's wife reportedly arrived back in their hometown on Friday, to spend the time with the family.