Ingrid Betancourt works in politics and is a human rights activist.
“I want back the life they took from me.”
Ingrid Betancourt was held captive in the Colombian jungle for six years. She wrote a book sharing powerful teachings of resilience, resistance, and faith.
Ingrid Betancourt, your new book is called “Even Silence Has An End.” Why did you choose this title?
It’s a Pablo Neruda passage from a poem called “Para Todos” that my father always used to recite when I was little. These are words that helped me a lot during my period of captivity.
How would you define your book?
It’s a journey that talks about my abduction, but it’s mainly a journey inside myself.
You describe many escape attempts, but when you escaped, did you really believe you would make it?
Yes. I was certain of it. If I got recaptured, I told myself that the next time, I’d make it.
Did you feel different from the other prisoners?
From some, yes. With others, the experience was just as intense.
Six-and-a-half years is a very long time, isn’t it?
Of course. It’s a period of time that forces you to question many things. I think there’s a difference between captivity that lasts a year and captivity that lasts years. Psychologically, many things change.
In a situation like that, do you need to have a lot of courage?
If I think back to those years, I don’t think it has to do with courage. We all believed in relying on the best in ourselves. And for those of us with children, the desire was much more pressing.
Did you have moments of desperation?
It alternated between moments of hope and moments of combativeness, but even in the most desperate moments, I believed that I would get out. I never thought that I’d never get out, though at times I even thought that the only escape would be death.
Does what happened to you seem surreal?
Six years of captivity were years of horror with day-to-day living that was pure horror. That’s the truth.
Were your captors cruel?
The book tells exactly what happened, the dimension of what we lived. We endured great cruelty, and I think this marked us for life.
Do you feel weaker than you were before being in captivity?
Yes, but there’s a passage by Saint Paul that goes, “Because I am alone, I am strong.” Strength comes from awareness of fragility, of human weakness.
Are you a different woman today?
Yes. People who go through these kinds of situations change the way they see things and analyse the world. Relationships certainly change.
Do you feel like a better woman?
I don’t know about that. But many things have changed inside of me.
Has the relationship with your children changed?
Well, yes, absolutely because they are no longer children. They are adults, and they lived through my captivity in a horrendous way, not knowing if their mother was dead or alive. This difficult situation transformed them, making them very combative.
What helped you the most?
Love. Only the love of God, who loves me and who lives and suffers through the same experience with us. I don’t believe there is any other answer.
Why did your marriage end right afterward?
My husband had gone on with his life. He had a new partner, and he’d made his choices.
What is your life plan now?
To find a place to live. I lived out of a suitcase for two years, with my children, and with my mother. Now I need to find a place where I can rebuild my life.
Do you have any ideas about what you are going to do?
I have started, and I hope to be able to continue on with the foundation, which also has locations in Milan and Paris, to work with those who want to help me help the hostages in Colombia who are being held in the jungle without any hope of being let go.
Have you personally found any kind of happiness?
I believe it is possible, and I feel happy. Happiness for me is about memories, inner harmony. I no longer need many things to feel happy.
Are you still distressed? Do you have nightmares?
Yes. A lot. I often can’t sleep at night. I have nightmares, but I am not afraid. It is as if I’d actually escaped from a nightmare.
Why is it difficult for you to choose a place to live?
Because it requires making many decisions. I need to go someplace near my children, so either in France or the United States, which would allow me to rebuild my personal and professional life, and to write. Writing has helped me a lot. I feel like I’ve closed a very important chapter of my life, and I especially feel the need to grow.
17th October 2010