Conducting an interview with Natascha Kampusch is a quite difficult endeavor. You know you must tread gently with the 22-year-old, who in March 1998 was abducted at the age of 10 and held in a secret cellar for more than eight years before escaping.
And so, you ought to weigh your words carefully, not knowing if and when you might cross the line defined by the blond woman.
First rule: She wants to be called “Ms. Kampusch,” which is what people in Austria call a girl who has turned 16. Calling her Natascha would be too familiar — even impertinent — to a person who spent her late childhood and teenage years cut off from the outside world.
For 3,096 days, her kidnapper, Wolfgang Priklopil, kept her in a 15-square-foot cellar in a town 15 miles east of Vienna. During that time, he was her only human contact. Their exchanges were not conversations: They served as a constant reminder of her submission.
Since Aug. 23, 2006, the day she escaped, Kampusch has been seeing medical trauma experts. In Paris for the promotion for her autobiographical account, “3,096 Days,” she has been accompanied by both a psychologist and a therapist.
“They are very important to me, they help me to rebuild my life, to understand who I am,” she told a room full of journalists.
For a long time, she asked herself questions like “Why me?” and “Why did he do that to me?”
“Nowadays, I’m not trying to understand anymore,” she says.
Many questions will remain unanswered — Priklopil committed suicide a few hours after she escaped.
However, Kampusch is adamant about not lingering in the past and living life now.
“I cannot change what happened anyway,” she says, “[I want to] open a new chapter of my life.”