Raised in Serbia during the Bosnian and Yugoslav Wars, Niko Bellic came from a background of poverty and non-stop violence, and his family was tormented by the horrors of war. As a teenager, he fought in the Yugoslav People's army as a helicopter pilot and infantryman, along with several other youths from his village. Unfortunately, they were betrayed by one of their number, led into an ambush which only Niko and two others survived. Once the war ended, Niko turned to a life of crime, running drugs and human cargo across the Adriatic Sea for Russian mafioso Ray Bulgarin, though the partnership ended on bad terms. Motivated by both a desire for revenge and for a better life, Niko decided to come to Liberty City on a cargo ship to live with his cousin, Roman, whose stories of mansions and sports cars gave hope to Niko.

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation turned out to be very different - the "mansion" was a dockside slum, the "sports cars" taxi cabs. On top of that, Roman was heavily indebted to Russian mobster Vlad Glebov, and Niko soon found himself returning to a life of crime to work off Roman's debts...

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