Mischa Markow, a convert from Vojvodina in modern-day Serbia, preached briefly in Beograd and Zrenjanin in the summer of 1899, but he was banished from each city. No Church members lived in Serbia until Eviza Arbić Vujičić, who had been baptized in Budapest, Hungary, and had moved to Beograd, Serbia, after World War I. For 14 years, she didn’t see another Latter-day Saint.
In the fall of 1932, Arthur Gaeth, president of the Czechoslovak Mission, visited Vujičić. When he arrived, Vujičić gave Gaeth the tithing she had saved during her years of isolation and spoke for hours about “the experiences and trials she had undergone since the war.” With Vujičić’s assistance, Gaeth began teaching Matej Spaček, who had learned of the Church from a local newspaper. After Gaeth left, Vujičić taught Spaček, and the two corresponded with Gaeth. During Gaeth’s next visit, Spaček became the first person baptized in Serbia. In 1937 Vujičić wrote to Gaeth, asking him to pray for her as she faced the coming winter in the face of poverty and ill health. Gaeth did more than pray: he worked with the Church to send financial aid. But Vujičić died before the money reached her.
While other isolated members later lived in the area, a regular Church presence was not established until the 1970s. In 1971 Krešimir Ćosić joined the Church while studying at Brigham Young University. He was later set apart as a special missionary to share the gospel and lead the scattered Saints in Yugoslavia during his professional basketball career. Ćosić’s team happened to be playing in Beograd one night in 1978 when Radmila Ranović, who had recently joined the Church in Switzerland, introduced herself to him. Ranović had hoped to do good for the Church in her native country. Two years later, when the Church first applied for official recognition in Serbia, Ranović acted as a special representative for the Church in Serbia, signing papers and answering to the police.
Ranović soon decided to serve a mission, hoping to develop skills to help her build up the Church. After returning, she started teaching a local family, who were baptized in May 1983. Six months later, the first branch was organized. “It was very difficult,” Ranović said, reflecting on those early days. “But the spirit was so beautiful.” In 1985 Ranović and some other Saints from Beograd traveled to Zagreb to witness Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicate Yugoslavia for the preaching of the gospel.