Interview with Natascha Kampusch 10 years later
Ten years ago this month, Natascha Kampusch escaped from the man who had abducted her as a child eight years earlier. But as the Austrian told AFP, freedom has not been all easy.
"It has been very difficult," the softly-spoken Kampusch, whose horrific experience made headlines around the world, said in an interview.
"I had no foundation to build on, no socialisation with other young people, with people of my own age."
Since her escape on August 23, 2006 from Wolfgang Priklopil -- who killed himself the same day -- Kampusch has not received kindness and sympathy from all quarters.
Despite her ordeal, which saw her abused and robbed of vital formative years in a dungeon under Priklopil's house, Kampusch has had hate mail, been shouted at and even attacked by an old woman in the street.
"I am not angry. I used to be but I have realised that you can achieve much more by being stoical. People like this just won't change, no matter how I behave towards them," she said.
A lot of the antipathy towards her has been fuelled by the perception that she has become rich and by conspiracy theories swirling around over the past decade.
These have included that Kampusch and Priklopil had a child -- supposedly now buried in the garden -- or that he was in a child-sex ring involving Austria's elite, who then had the 44-year-old unemployed telecoms engineer murdered.
But she says that those "nasty people" are a "tiny minority". Mostly people just leave her alone -- her preferred reaction -- while others try to comfort her.
"Lots of people want to hug me. It's not great but it's okay if that's what they want."
'The evil in us all'
Kampusch has now written a new book -- her second -- in which she recounts the difficulties she has faced getting her life back on track and in which she attempts to set the record straight.
"A few years ago I went through a phase when I began to reject the outside world. The world that I had looked forward to so much," she wrote, according to extracts published by Austrian media.
"For some people... I was a provocation. Possibly because they couldn't handle how I dealt with my kidnapping and imprisonment," she said.
"Maybe I provoke a lot of aggression because the crime provokes a lot of aggression and because I am the only person around. I am the one who bears the brunt, not the perpetrator as it should be."
And even though she knows it only keeps all the rumours alive, she refuses in the book to talk about every single experience she went through as she was starved, beaten and abused over so many years.
"Of course I was sexually abused, but the fact that I have spoken and written about it obviously isn't enough... Some people seem to think I have to recount every single detail," she writes.
The fascination with her case, she thinks, is because what she went through surpasses the imaginable, and to make it easier to ignore the abuse that people suffer in silence every day.
Society needs "supposed monsters like Wolfgang Priklopil to give the evil that lives in them a face," she says in the book.
"They need pictures of cellar dungeons in order not to see all the violence hidden behind a bourgeois front and all those well-tended facades and front gardens."
Meeting the queen
Kampusch now owns the nondescript house in Strasshof outside Vienna where she was held captive, and which she leaves empty.
She admits this is "strange" but doesn't want to sell it in case it becomes "a scary entertainment park". She visits twice a month, to deal with practical matters like the garden, she says.
Since 2006, Kampusch has tried to live as normal a life as possible, reuniting with her family, making friends and finishing school, travelling and learning languages. For a short while she even had her own TV chat show.
"I like films, I like music, but I am a big fan of the 20th century. But I'm young and I have to swim with other people in the 21st century. I have to integrate myself in this century," she told AFP.
Now she would like to study -- "psychology or philosophy perhaps" -- and do more charity work. She has already funded a children's hospital in Sri Lanka and worked with refugees.
But her eyes light up when talk turns to astrology.
"Can you arrange for me to meet the Queen of England?" she jokes with her British interviewer. She jokes a lot, the dark chapter in her life now a decade in the past.
"I have studied our astrological charts. We are very compatible, like two flames," she giggles, enthusiastically explaining on her phone the positions of the stars at Elizabeth II's birth.