Julia Chediak was 8 years old when she was kidnapped. In December 2018, at age 17, she spoke about that experience to the journalist Carla Maldonado, from EL TELÉGRAFO.
On January 22, 2019, she will give a lecture at the Forum of Paseo San Francisco, in Cumbayá, Quito. “I’ve always been very open, I’m not afraid of the subject. I think part of my recovery is talking about my kidnapping, which was from January 11 to 20, 2010. If it were not like that, I would not have overcome it. Those who listen to me can learn something from this hard experience.
I was eight years old. I arrived at my house on a school bus and lived in a condominium of seven houses. That day, the guard called me and told me that I had some papers from my mother. There he covered my mouth and put me in the bathroom of the guardian. I did not understand well nor did I know it was a kidnapping. He told me that the FARC were in my house, they had my family and that they wanted me as a hostage. He offered to help me, put me in a big dumpster and then we got into a car.
On the way, he told me that the FARC had already gone to my grandparents’ house. We arrive at a spot, dry, with a ravine. There he told me that I should hide for a few days and I thought he was protecting me. But he warned me to obey him in everything, he took out a gun and threatened me: “if you do not obey, I’ll kill you,” he said. That confused me. Why, if he helped me, did he have a gun pointed at my head? We walked towards the ravine and stopped in a tree, which had a backpack hanging. I was surprised, I thought that if I should not be there, why was there a backpack waiting for me? I did not understand, but I did not dare to ask much. In the backpack were three cans of tuna, juice and a couple of handcuffs. The kidnapper sat me on the floor, handcuffed my ankles to the tree and left.
I stayed in that place the first three days and one of my fears was that it would rain, and the river would go up and drown me because I could not move. I tried not to cry because my situation was very extreme. I had to survive and not waste energy or water from my body. The second night of my abduction, I finished the juice and I started crying because I thought I was going to die. I also thought that the kidnapper would not come back. I tried to cut the handcuffs with school scissors, but it did not work. The more they moved, the more they adjusted. I screamed, but nobody listened to me.
The third day I wanted to sleep a lot so that time would pass quickly. I dreamed and it seemed better than reality. The kidnapper came back and brought me water and some food. He took off my handcuffs and we crossed the river in the ravine. He was always with his gun, he threatened me and said I should walk faster. He explained that we should change places because they were looking for me. We reached another part of the forest, drier, and that night he stayed with me and put the handcuffs on me.
My kidnapper, who left during the day and came back at night, was afraid that I would escape. But I never thought about that possibility because it would have been fatal for me. I was about to become malnourished and dehydrated because I had not eaten much or drank water. On the fifth day I became desperate with the handcuffs and damaged them.
The kidnapper noticed and his only solution was to take a big stick, put my arms and legs together and lie down on the floor. I was crucified and I could not move at all. If I was bitten by something I could not even scratch my leg. My arms and body ached. That was the worst, the strongest thing that had happened to me during the kidnapping. I had to hold back my calm and I tried to sleep. I told myself that if I despaired I could not do anything. Again, we changed places and came to a waterfall, with dirty water and full of plastic bottles. I counted the days that passed and I no longer believed in the story of the FARC.
The kidnapper told me that he would talk to my parents on the phone and he warned me what to tell them: that I was sick, malnourished, with body aches, vomiting and about to die. All that was true. If I did not tell my parents that, he would kill me and once again put the gun to my head. I talked to my mom and she asked me what my piano teacher was called. I answered that it was Jeff, but we called him Mister Tweed. At that time the kidnapper ripped my phone off, he did not do anything to me, but he yelled at me because I said something that was not planned. I was a bit distressed because I talked about my teacher, but my mother expected that answer. For her that meant she had talked to me and not another girl.
The days passed, the kidnapper told me that my mom was sick and hospitalized. I cried a lot, I thought it was my fault and the stress of my kidnapping. I thought that she could die, however, it was a lie of him. I was very weak, I had no energy, I could not walk so fast and my whole body hurt. I entered a state of survival, I fell asleep a lot, but not deeply because I wanted to be ready to run. In the last days of my kidnapping I got worse. I became weaker and he threw my backpack because I could not carry it on my back anymore. I talked to the kidnapper, he asked me questions but I did not want to tell him much about my family. He also told me about his wife and children.
The day I turned 11 kidnapped he told me that I was going to meet my family. I was very excited and I cried, I wanted to see my parents. We had to climb all the streams that went down, but I had difficulties because I could not walk so fast. We arrived at a vacant lot, with construction pipes, and the night was already beginning to fall. The kidnapper put me in one of those tubes, tied my hands and feet. I lay down, ready to sleep and I heard that they called me Julia, Julia … I did not know if it was him or not. I realized that it was not his voice and I answered.
Members of the Intervention and Rescue Group (GIR), the Anti-kidnapping and Extortion Unit (Unase) and the Special Operations Group of the Police (GOE) arrived. They rescued me, but they were not with my parents. I do not remember that I was in a car and that they took me to my family. I was very excited when I saw them. They moved me to the hospital and I told my mother that she should forgive me because I bit my nails during the kidnapping.
My parents told me that I was in shock and that my eyes were closed. They also told me that I looked asleep, but it was not like that. I did not return to school immediately, I went through daily physical therapy and went to the psychologist. I also could not move and ate with my hands. I wanted to tell about my abduction because it helps me to be cured of that experience.
If you do not speak, all those emotions accumulated, you do not leave the trauma and you consume yourself. Therefore, I am open to discuss this topic. Maybe, this could help other people in cases of kidnapping. Although these are not the same, but they are in a difficult situation, my experience can be useful. I transformed that very negative experience into a positive one. I had a chance, now I value everything that is around me. I grew up as a human being and decided to leave the trauma behind.
Today I think that freedom and being at home with my family are the most important thing in my life. That is freedom because if you are tied to the tree or crucified you understand the meaning of that word. If I had not been kidnapped, I would not value all this that I have. I had to go to psychologists and I suffered from post-traumatic stress.
The sound of the dumpster’s wheels stayed etched in his head. But being open helps me a lot; If I do not converse with others and I do not publicize my abduction, that is still only mine. If it ceases to be a secret it means that I have already passed that episode. It was very difficult and long, but I’m proud of myself. A few years ago, I even told my mom that I forgive my kidnapper and his accomplices. They took me away a lot, they made me and my family suffer, and they left me traumas. But to forgive the kidnappers is to tell them: here your thing ends, I keep going. ” (I)