IMAGE: Natascha Kampusch
Staff  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Natascha Kampusch, seen here in a video image, speaks about her kidnapping and captivity in an interview, aired Wednesday by Austrian public television ORF.
updated 1/4/2007 8:31:50 AM ET 2007-01-04T13:31:50

The young woman who was held captive in a windowless cell for 8½ years until her dramatic escape last summer described her struggles to reclaim her life in a TV documentary that aired Wednesday.

Recalling details of her 1998 kidnapping and subsequent ordeal, 18-year-old Natascha Kampusch said she is enjoying getting to know her family again but wishes people would treat her normally.

“Everyone laughs when they’re together, but they don’t laugh when they’re with me. They treat me differently,” Kampusch told state broadcaster ORF, whose 50-minute program included a re-enactment of her abduction interspersed with snippets of her life since she bolted to freedom on Aug. 23.

Kampusch, who was a freckle-faced 10-year-old when she was taken on her way to school, compared kidnapper Wolfgang Priklopil to “a 3-year-old child who throws temper tantrums.”

Priklopil, 44, killed himself by jumping in front of a commuter train within hours after Kampusch escaped while he busied himself with a cell phone call.

Kampusch, noticeably more chubby since gaining her freedom and wearing rose-colored eyeglasses, was shown embracing her younger cousins and helping her mother bake a chocolate cake — ordinary moments she was deprived of during her confinement in the cramped underground cell Priklopil built beneath his suburban Vienna home.

Her disappearance was one of Austria’s greatest unsolved criminal mysteries until she resurfaced.

Wednesday’s documentary showed footage of police divers scouring the Danube River, volunteers tacking up posters urging people to come forward with any tips, and Kampusch’s father making a tearful televised plea after she vanished: “Dear Natascha, come back! Please come back!”

‘I heard the rush of my own blood’
Kampusch recalled how she tried to scream when she was snatched and stuffed into a white van, “but nothing came out.” She also described the terror that made it impossible for her to sleep for the first few days of her captivity.

“I couldn’t see a thing. I could only listen,” she said. “It was dark — so dark. I heard the rush of my own blood. I felt the tightness, the cold.”

Kampusch, who weighed just 92 pounds at the time of her escape — exactly her weight when she was taken — said Priklopil fed her so infrequently, “I was afraid I would starve to death.”

She showed ORF the small children’s story book — “Benjamin Niemand,” or “Benjamin Nobody” — that was among her favorite books in the cell.

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