Interview with Ilse Hruby about her marriage with a Scientologist "Marriage on the rocks in Scientology"

Berlin, Germany
September 20, 2000
Interviewer: Tilman Hausherr
Translation by: Joe Cisar
Original Interview in German Language:
"Interview mit Ilse Hruby zu ihrer Ehe mit einem Scientologen"

How did you get to know your husband?

Our getting together was arranged; I knew nothing about Margit Margreiter, the Scientology "minister," pairing us. He came to me as a handyman and wanted to renovate my bathroom.

So what was your first impression?

I knew my husband-to-be as a sympathetic and well-cared for person in several ways. He radiated an unusual, winning optimism; I didn't know at the time that was an artificially produced staged optimism which he put on for show. I'm sure he didn't know, either. At the time, I could see absolutely nothing strange about how this man thought or acted.

When and how did it turn out that anything was "different"?

By and by, in the early times of our relation everything, naturally, pointed to there being no more beautiful life than this, but in the course of us living together, it gradually came out that there was an X factor which I could not at first identify. I commented that I was not as important to him as he was to me. His "religion" was clearly more important to him than I was, and not only that, but his family wasn't really important to him either.

How and when did you come to find out about Scientology?

For one thing, his friends and his family told me after a while about what happened before I came along, and for another, I was getting increasingly curious and also suspicious; I bought RH's first book in a bookstore, and when Peter discovered it, there was a terrible fight; he thought that woman was a liar and that would be why she had successfully sued Scientology multiple times. I responded to him that if only 10 percent of what was in the book was true, then that was bad enough by itself. In addition to that I was totally appalled about what I had read about my husband's religion. My second attempt to obtain information about the Scientology "religion" brought me to (Mrs.) Dr. Valentin in the office of the Vienna Archdiocese. The information I got from Mrs. Valentin helped me put together another piece of the puzzle which was starting to form. At least from that time forward I knew what it was about and it became clear to me that I would have to take care that I didn't get pulled in myself. Up to that point in time, the Scientologists had covered me with "love-bombing" and I have to admit that it would not have been too hard to get me to be a member of Scientology in order to save my marriage and restore peace to the family.

Did he take the book away?

He wanted to when he found it, but I gave it to some friends, to our landlord, who read it anyway and then told me in a rather lively telephone conversation who he thought I was dealing with, that would be something like a Mafia who rationalized away your brain and looted your bank account. The first thing he would ask me regarding Peter's whereabouts was, "Is he (Peter) back with the Klingons again?"

Did you try out courses or Scientology technology for yourself?

Yes, I took three short courses (statistics course, money and its dynamics, and a course about the fair exchange of beans), more as a favor to my husband than anything else and concluded that they were pure nonsense.

When I finished with my courses, naturally I was encouraged by the course supervisor and told how great I was and how fast I was progressing, etc. (Feats at the level of the "course documents") - only would have to do some more then and there, since there were still deficits to be worked out; simply put, as usual they wanted to sell me the next course and the course after both at the same time.

I got suggestions, I was supposed to take courses like the "Ups and Downs in Life" and the "Communication Course."

On top of that, I didn't pay for any of the three courses myself, they were financed by my husband.

Then there came the suggestion that I could go to the Org and work as "staff" and have a lot of wins doing that. I just thought that not only am I not a member of Scientology, but I had not intention of becoming one.

The faces around me were getting longer and longer.

Did Scientology try to recruit you?

Yes. Amazingly they didn't give up and just tried and tried again, using various types of flattery and, naturally, the constant hymns of praise to Hubbard and how great the Scientology tech worked that it was the only real science of knowing how to know; they wanted to get me to be a member of this cult. I was told my husband was going to be clear and was already on his way up the Bridge, and that would be a disadvantage to me if I didn't also try to improve my personality and my life, too.

Were attempts made from the Scientology Org to influence your married life? What had preference?

Naturally our married life was controlled by Scientology, but figuring that out took a little time. Absolutely nothing was off limits, my husband's minutely precise reports easily enabled total supervision of our marriage. My husband's preference was clearly for the Scientology organization; when it came to deciding between me/family and the Org, 90 percent of the decisions were in favor of Scientology. I was troubled for nothing and got used to that, too, with time. What had priority was the rules, regulations and policies of Scientology, for instance he described the most intimate details of how our married life worked in painful detail and he prepared overt/withhold write-ups which were collected and delivered to the Org. I conclude from that that I have not found all my ex-husband's reports, and I would not like to imagine what all he documented and who all has read his reports. I was leading - without my knowledge for a long time, as I did not find his reports until later - a married life that was nearly completely transparent for a perfectly undemocratic organization.

You could say I had the feeling that I was married to 35 people at the same time.

It is known that Scientology is anti-scientific, especially anti-medicine. Were you, as a member of that branch, aware of that?

I always had to listen to how psychiatrists and psychologists, too, were major criminals who were destroying humanity. Interestingly enough, my husband could never explain to me what the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists were when I asked him about that. But when it came to chastising the two professional groups, he could do that to near perfection. Even the simplest medications were described as drugs which made people addicted. When I asked him about how that was supposed to happen, like how a diabetic could get by without insulin or someone with heart problems without their heart medicine, he told me those illnesses could be "handled" with "conditions." In a trip through California with Peter's boss, Urs U., he told me contemptuously that he knew exactly how AIDS came about, that he was the only person in the world who had thoroughly researched it, and, above that, that he knew logically about that illness; he said the doctors knew nothing about it and the doctors and scientists were arrogant riffraff in the matter.

How did Scientology affect your son, I mean, did your husband get along with him OK?

My son came to me rather quickly, back when I was not yet even ready to look into the things around Peter's "religion" and told me, "he's funny." The reason for that statement was an incident in which my son had very painfully hit his head against a bookshelf in his bed room. Here's what happened: I was not allowed to console my son or look to see if his wound was bleeding or not; my husband took our son to the place where he had hit himself on the bookshelf and then pressed the sore spot on his head up against the shelf. In doing so he told my son that the pain would now flow back into the bookshelf, which, of course, didn't happen. He did the same thing with my son when he scraped his knee playing, his knee was pressed up against the spot on the lawn and the little boy was told that the pain would then travel back into the grass. I was not allowed to console my son in that case, either, nobody was even supposed to speak to him.

What kind of effect did Scientology have financially?

Catastrophic, my husband was already deep in debt at the time we got married, then it constantly grew, partly because his company worked without any perceptible wages/success, and partly because the Scientology courses were very expensive. By the end of our marriage, my husband's debt was officially 2.2 million Austrian shillings; I had never known, with certainty, the true extent of his debt although I kept books for his company, because several amounts always stayed unclear.

How did the marriage finally break up?

On October 20, 1998, the separation order came from the Scientology Org in Vienna, the bookkeeping was quickly transferred over to "Z" company and he had to separate from me immediately. In typical Scientology fashion he never admitted that, of course, but contested everything.

What is your impression of the state of Austria providing counselling and of independent counselling centers?

Hard to say, as someone right out of it, of course you look for effective help and go through several self-help groups, including official counselling centers for sect problems. My first contact in the period in which I was getting separated and divorced was a staff worker at the GSK ("Gesellschaft gegen Sekten und Kultgefahren" in Vienna), and from there I got to know ex-members and former relatives of members who were deeply involved doing public information work about sect and cult dangers. I learned a little bit more each place I went. In that time frame I also bought many books without knowing exactly who the authors really were; I read one book after the next; much got cleared up and I was shocked to find out what kind of group I had spent my last almost 4 years with.

How is the media's reporting?

In Austria there is honestly very little. It seems as if people here are afraid to come to terms with the topic of Scientology in the media. About once a year there is a TV report, and critical newspaper articles, anyway, are an outright rarity. The German media are way ahead of us there, there people take up the things connected with Scientology and talk about them, too.

What would you advise people who want to get involved in a relationship with a Scientologist man or woman?

As bad as it may sound: Hands Off! Make copies of everything you have, don't keep your records at home; put them in a safety deposit box to which only you have access. If someone is already in a relationship with a Scientologist, they should seek timely help at a counseling center; get the information, you're going to need it.

When and where did you get the idea to write a book?

Well, that didn't happen all at once, the idea matured gradually. One day I began to write down everything about my marriage experiences and I showed it to a Viennese journalist who had been doing research in the field for years; she thought it was very good but that it would have to be re-written. She then became one of my two coauthors, and I am very grateful to both the ladies for their tireless encouragement. As to why I then finally wrote it, I wanted to describe in detail how Scientology established a family and how fast a non-Scientology spouse who didn't fit in landed in the waste basket if everything didn't function as the Scientology organization conceived it should.

How did you feel during and after the divorce?

During the divorce period, my husband and I were already living apart; it was a very sad time for me, I had to force myself everyday to look after and comfort my son and to go to work. I felt that I had been lied to and cheated about a relationship for which I had to constantly fight and still was fighting. Finally I had to realize that the winner of this fight had already been determined at the beginning of it all, namely the Scientology organization.

Were you able to start a new relationship after all those years?

Not right away, really I thought I'd stay alone and that I could no longer give or receive love. It was that way a long time, I thought I still loved my ex-husband, but that was surely part sympathy for him and for myself, because I could not understand that an organization could have more power over people than the love for one's partner in marriage.

Today, almost two years after the separation, I again have a very admirable, intelligent and handsome man by my side and with his help I have managed to close the chapter on "My Marriage to a Scientologist" - even though I will probably never be able to forget it.

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