The disqueting story of Ilkido, OT VIII, and the mysterious disappearance of her 26 cats

Interview made in April 2006 by Simonetta Po.

In mid March 2006, a reader of my website sent me a curious letter published by the daily Avvenire.

The letter said:


Dear Editor,

the follower of the religion called Scientology is convinced that once he has reached a level called "OT 8", he will achieve the skills of those Hindu gurus who manage to travel through space without their bodies and who carry out magical actions cancelling physical laws. Also, future reincarnations as human beings or as animals are supposed to cease - thus conquering immortality! - and the believer is supposed to meet with happiness and success in his or her present life. This is what the founder of Scientology, Ron Hubbard, has promised.

Unfortunately, ten years ago, I fell into the trap set by this gentleman. To achieve the state of "OT 8" one had to make a "fixed donation" (irrelevant of one's income) of at least 500 million Italian Lire [translator's note: more than 250.000 Euros]. I know this well, because, besides that amount, I also spent a further 8000 dollars to find harmony with my husband, who is an OT too!

When I finally reached the level of "OT 8" the results I obtained were: a divorce, heart trouble, head ache and tremendous nightmares every night (including an aggression by a reptilean monster which puts me into a state of depression for the whole day).

Luckily I have not renounced by Catholic faith, so I am still able to think with my own head. Today there is a good psychiatrist who is helping me to erase the outcome of the psychophysical violence, of the interference in my private life and of all the deceptions committed by the staff of Scientology. And I am still waiting to get my money back.

Ildiko Bajnoczi - Appignano (Macerata)

(Avvenire, March, 15th 2006)

So I started looking for Ildiko. It was not hard to find this beautiful blonde lady of Hungarian origin. Appignano is a lovely small Medieval village nestling amidst the hills of inland Marche, everybody knows everybody else, especially the "lady of the cats".

So here I am at last, in front of Ildiko Bajnoczi, for this long interview.

Well, Ilkido, would you like to tell me briefly how you got to know Scientology?

I got to Italy in the early '70s. I had had a difficult childhood in Hungary, I lost my mother when I was still a child. I had always been a fragile and insecure person. In 1982, I saw by chance a TV programme held by Pier Paderni. He was speaking abou the "anatomy of the human mind" and Scientology. Life had made me insecure but also very curious. There were things I thought I would never be able to solve, I suffered from panic attacks, but I didn't want to start taking pychotrope drugs, and I wanted to take another road. That programme made me curious, and attracted me. I remembered how I had once been approached by people from Scientology while I was walking in the centre of Milan. At the time, I went away, but I had promised myself to go back. Which is exactly what I did.

I started with a four hour auditing course of "Book One". I asked whether there was something more powerful. They told me about professional auditing, so I purchased two intensives which I used for a procedure called "Life repair": I found this very useful, it seemed to me as if the auditor could read my mind. At that moment I felt a promise of happiness, a way to free myself from suffering, and also a way to try out new paths.

I didn't know a "Bridge" existed. When they showed me the "Chart Grade", and I saw that it was only the beginning of a long road, I felt a strong determination to get to the top. If so little had given me so much, who knows what I would find as I rose up. I had great confidence. So I purchased all the auditing up to Clear.

When I got to that level, I felt very contented and enthusiastic. I felt well, I felt the energy flowing powerfully. I still was not very interested in the OT levels. However, after a short period of time, that initial feeling of exaltation began to weaken. At that point, the staff of Scientology are good at their job, they speak to you, they handle you, they say you are in danger, they create an atmosphere of mystery.

So you didn't hesitate very long to go ahead on the Bridge?

No. They work a lot on your wish to feel well, to be better, to see life in a lighter way, to float on the surface without ever going down into the "mechanics" to fight, it is very inviting. I of course was curious to know myself, since I was not very sure of myself, I also wanted to find out the reason for so many things, so it was easy to handle me, they didn't have to work hard. There was also the desire to be above the masses, different, more powerful than other people. They work on your ego, all of us want these things. It is as if a little devil were talking to you, sell your soul and you will get everything, power, beauty, riches. Of course they don't speak so explicitly, but they convince you that you have to do everything to to get there, once you've got there you'll have everything, both from this life and after.

What were your experiences with the OT levels?

Before the OT levels, I was sure I would become omnipotent, a kind of almighty. This is how the OT levels are presented in the magazines and literature of Scientology. Those who had already reached that level showed an incredible confidence in themselves and power on life. I started out full of enthusiasm and hopes. Then the trouble began. The weirdest things started happening to me. I found the tyres of my car had been cut, I got threatening calls. I don't know who it was, who hated me that much. "But how can this be", I said to myself, "I have just attested OT3 or 4, why do things like this happen to me? This kind of aggression?" But I still didn't want to see. I justified and rationalised, telling myself that I was restimulating the "group bank". I was winning, and then the bank was putting all these trials in my path since it was rebelling against my strength: I considered these events to be a confirmation that everything was working, it was a rebellion by the bank against my power. Then just after I attested OT 5 I got sick. I was in bed for two weeks with a 40 degree centigrade fever. I continued however to glide over things, I didn't want to stop and reflect. I was very perplexed, I expected to be strong, yet I was weak. I rationalised it, thinking that now that I had freed myself from so much mass, I was more exposed, and hence more fragile. I rationalised, I kept on rationalising right to the end.

After I attested OT 8 - I was one of the first scientologists to reach that level in 1989 - I fell ill. I wasn't able to stand up, I was disconcerted, I kept saying to myself, how can this be, I attested yesterday and today I can't even stand up, I was falling all over the place, but I had to make an effort to appear strong and show everybody how I had succeeded.

Did you tell anybody about your problems?

No. Of course, I talked about them with my auditors and the C/S's, my story is all written down in my folders. But I never spoke about it with the other scientologists. To the outside world, I gave a happy and winning image, the OT's cannot show that they have problems. You learn how to show a social facade where everything seems to be going well, showing yourself to be a winner all along the line.

However, I always had problems. After OT 3 and OT5, I continued to have attacks of anxiety. They should have disappeared after Clear, when you are supposed to have solved your problems with the first dynamic. But things didn't go that way. However, I saw this as a thrust to move ahead, I told myself, "here, I'll go on to OT 6 now, to OT 7 "solo" auditing, and everything will fall into place". I always worked honestly at every level, on OT 7 I went into session 2 or 3 times a day, it was in my interest to do so. My first intention was to feel better. However, anxiety and troubles didn't cease.

In the meantime, I had received reviews on OT 3 and OT 5, I had also done two L's and the OT Debug on the Ship. Years later, after I attested OT 8, they told me "Ah, OT 7 wasn't done well, we've got to do it all over again". So I went back for a second time on OT 7. They reascertained my state of Clear again, but everything was OK.

And did you settle your problems at that point?

No, I continued to suffer from anxiety, and I certainly could not say I was well. Then in 1996 the "Golden Age of Technology" came out, and they told us that all those who had done OT 7 and OT 8 had to do them over again, because they had seen that nobody had done those levels well. After years and years, we had to do everything all over again, at our own expense. So, 9 years after I had attested OT 8 I went back for the third time on OT 7. In the meantime, I continued explaining things away to myself, telling myself that perhaps I had missed something, maybe something had not been done well, perhaps they hadn't realised it, even though I had been to Flag regularly evey six months, to have my work checked as prescribed, and despite all the reviews. I was convinced that this third time everything would turn out well, I was very confident. I stayed at Flag for 6 months, but after doing no less than 12 intensives, each costing 7.000 dollars, I found out that I was only halfway through the programme. Between the services and accommodation, I had by now spent nearly 100,000 dollars, but the road to go back to "solo" auditing was still very long. It was 1998, and I had run out of all my resources by now. At this point, I decided to give up. I had spent all my money, hope and energy, and it was a big failure for me.

In the meantime I had also completed other courses and services, such as the "False Purpose Rundown", the OT debug, two L's. The L's are very powerful and costly processing, why did they give it to me if something was wrong? I had been through all the reviews, then I also started "Key to Life" but then I stopped and had to give up. Something went into restimulation, I was in a terrible state, I wanted to throw myself overboard from the ship and swim away. Everything kept getting worse and worse. But I resisted. Then they told me, "let's solve everything by re-doing OT 7". I told myself, "of course, the problem is certainly there, I'll put myself together again, I'll audit myself every day and get strong, that way I can do everything I want in my life". But I never got there. I ran out of resources and had to give up.

However I was still calm. I still communicated with the C/S, I corresponded with the DofP, I even wrote to the Senior C/S International, and he answered that he would have all my folders reviewed, so that when I got back to Flag, I would find everything in order and a new programme to work on. He told me to go on taking other courses, and when I was no longer "sickly", I could go back to Flag. So I went on attending the Mission of Macerata, where I re-did PTS/SP for the third time, together with other courses which I don't remember.

Before going on with the last phase of your experience in Scientology and the incredible story of the disappearance of your whole cat colony, could you tell me about your marriage?

I was married twice. My first husband did a few hours of Book One auditing, but then decided not to go on any further. He also purchased some 30 million Italian lire [about 15.000 Euros] in WISE services, but they sent him "out reality", and in the end he gave it all up.

After becoming OT 8, I got to know the person who would become my second husband better. We had got to know each other when he was doing the sauna, but then he blew the "Purif". They asked me to get hold of him again, and so I did. I don't know exactly what I told him, but I managed to convince him to come back, and right after, he bought it all, the Clear pack and the OT pack too. We used to see each other at the Milan org, where I studied, and I fell madly in love with him. I divorced, and soon after, we got married.

Even though I was head over heels in love, our marriage didn't work out. Our marriage was full of problems and strains, and I suffered a lot. But I didn't give up. I told myself, "you will see, when you are farther along the Bridge, things will work out, you will see, he will change, he will change", but he never changed, he got to be OT 5 and didn't change, he only got worse. I resisted, also because I hoped that the OT levels could help him with this kind of conflicts. I also requested a Marriage Assist and he didn't want to do it, but I told him, "No, we can't go on living for ever with this weird thing between us". After the Marriage Assist, he stopped speaking to me. The purpose was to settle our problems, but he stopped speaking to me. Whether we stayed together, or got separated, there had to be a solution, but there wasn't. Later on for the overwhelming stress I was experimenting I had to get the help of a professional nurse and, at the time, a scientologist. Despite everything, I was very much in love with my husband, and I am a peaceful person, and this too is why I underwent so much for such a long time. Then the last straw came, I got to the point where I was no longer able to put up with it, and reacted. Only then did I change, another blow of whatever nature would have been the end for me. However, we are now settling things up for the divorce, and he's showing good will and cooperation.

Meanwhile, Ildiko shows me a large folder of clinical exams and ECG tracks which clearly shows that, although she is just 52, her health is not the best. I ask her whether, before finally separating from her husband, she ever thought of accusing him in court for mistreatment.

No. In Scientology, going to a judge against another scientologist is considered a "high crime". One may only refer to the internal justice system, one believes that it is the only one which can work. I made a lot of reports "on the lines", our family condition was well known, and it can be seen both from my folders and from those of my former husband, but nothing happened, nothing ever changed. My husband was submitted to cycles of ethics, things went well for some time, but then they became worse than ever.

What drove you in 2003 to want to go back to Flag, after five years?

I was feeling bad, worse all the time. My heart had begun to give me problems, I was very stressed, and unable to fight all that stress with my own strength alone. Then a lot of my friends and acquaintances who did the OT levels had died relatively young. G. Cocchetti had had a stroke just after having attested OT 8, then he committed suicide. D. P., OT 8, had died of cancer in a few months, and his son, an OT 4, had committed suicide just after his father died. E. G., OT8, had died of cancer. P. M., OT 8, had felt ill during a session, and had died. Luigi, a restaurant owner in Brescia and OT 8, had died of a heart attack. I felt, I had a perception, that the next one would be me, and I didn't want to die. So I decided to go to Flag. But I had to take care of my cat colony.

How did your love for cats start?

I always loved them. It was through them that I started to taste life in one of its most authentic aspects. I was ten years old, in Hungary, when a neighbour killed my cat with a pitchfork because she had eaten her eggs. Then I was sent to a boarding school, and I forgot that episode. At 25, in Italy, I came across my first abandoned kitten; it was something like finding my own cat again. As years went by, it became a mission. I took in cats of every race and with every kind of history: abandoned, abused, ill, tortured. There was no cat asylum in my area, so I made one, committing my resources and energy. I had them cured, vaccinated, sterilised. 20 of them were also registered with the town offices, I wanted them to be protected. The cats were my family, and I gave them all the love a mother feels for her children. My main worry, before leaving for Flag, was their welfare, how to settle them. So I organised things as well as possible. I hired Francesca, a woman who hung around the Mission of Macerata, to take care of them while I was away. I was supposed to be in America only for two weeks. I gave her an advance payment of 120 Euros, I left her with the addresses of the veterinary who followed them, and of all the people she should call in case of difficulty. I also left her the keys of my home, where she could go freely and where she could live while I was away.

Ildiko shows me dozens of pictures of her cats, at the time they were found, and after she had taken care of them. Some were paralysed, and could move only on their front legs.

When did you leave for Flag?

Never, actually. I was scheduled to leave around May 20, 2003 and I had arranged things with my Class IX auditor, Bianca Galbiati and with the Letter Registrar Franco Carbognin. But just before I was supposed to leave, Giovanna Zurloni, OT 5, Sea Org Member, recruiter for SH UK and Director of Validity at SH, who I thought was a friend, told me that plans had been changed, and that I was no longer leaving for Florida, but for Saint Hill, in the UK, instead. This upset me very much, because as an OT 8, I should be getting auditing only at Flag or on the Ship, but I was in a state of deep prostration, and I trusted her, so I let her guide me. I got to Saint Hill towards the end of May, not knowing that Zurloni had written a knowledge report on me which was very harsh, and which was never sent to me, violating all the rules. I didn't know anything about that report, I found out later. That KR made many false accusations against me and said that as an OT 8 I had to work for Scientology, not wasting my time with cats. My cats were creating bad PR among my neighbours. At Saint Hill I started an ethics programme and the "Pab 6".

What's Pab 6?

This is a programme which is assigned to PTS's type C, people with serious mental problems, hallucinations, people who are very introverted. They take you around for walks, you do localisation exercises and so on. If I think that I am an OT 8 and I should be at cause on MEST, the Phisical Universe, that programme was worrysome and humiliating.

Then what happened?

When I got there, I handed over my airplane ticket and my ID documents, as is usually done. I was supposed to stay for a couple of weeks, but Rudy (Saint Hill's Exec Recruiter) kept on moving ahead the return date without telling me why, and despite my protests. Every day, I used to call home to ask about my cats and Francesca, the woman that I had entrusted them to, told me everything was going well, no problem. In the meantime, the Saint Hill recruiters, Luisa, Rudy and Jonathan, told me that my programme was done, that there was no new one or else that it had got lost, and they handled me to start the EPF, that's the first step to join the Sea Org staff. I told them repeatedly that I had no intention of joining the Sea Org, that I didn't feel up to it, I wasn't well, and that I had my cat colony and several situations in Italy to take care of. They insisted telling me I could start the EPF while waiting to go back to Italy and so on, it was just a mere, easy step just to see "if I was suited". They put so much pressure on me that I ended up accepting. The day scheduled for my return, however, they didn't give me back my ticket, saying that I was on the EPF and I had to finish it, thus forcing me to continue the programme. Then the MLO Sharon signed the OK for me to leave. But three days before my departure, my husband and Giovanna Zurloni - both OT 5 - came to Saint Hill. In front of the MAA of SH Marco Zurloni, Giovanna's son, and an Italian staff of the Treasury, they told me that my 26 cats had been "scattered" since the begining of June, my apartment had been dismanteled, all my furniture thrown away and my personal belongings put into boxes that could be sent to me at Saint Hill. The whole time I had been kept at Saint Hill (one and a half months - I wanted to leave but I had no money, and didn't know how to do it), I had gone on calling home, and I kept getting reassurance that everything was in order. When I heard that my poor kitties, some sick, others paralised, had been "scattered", with that terrible hot weather (Summer 2003 in Italy was terribly hot, with temperatures above 40°C from mid May to the end of August), without food or water, I was overcome by shock and ran away crying. I then had a collapse, and I was rescued by Marina Caporrimo of the Mission of Macerata, Sea Org Member at Saint Hill. I was also visited by an outside physician. I told him I was going back to Italy the next day, so he didn't prescribe anything for me, but told me to get a thorough visit when I got home. I was really afraid I would die, my heart seemed to have gone crazy.

My husband and Giovanna Zurloni returned to Italy at once, and I left the next day. I was told that I would be authorised to leave only if I signed a kind of agreement concerning both the divorce and the promise, once in Italy, to take no legal steps. I was feeling very bad, both physically and psychologically, and I was very worried about the disappearance of my kits. A terrible suffering had been inflicted on me, and I only wanted to run to the place my husband had mentioned, to find them and get them together again. I would have signed anything to get away at once. At that point, I didn't have a penny, and even my mobile phone had run completely out of credit, I was cut off from the world.

When did you get back to Italy, and what did you find?

I got back on July 7, 2003. I met Giovanna Zurloni, who gave me the keys to my car, but not those to my home, which I had left with Francesca, the woman who was supposed to take care of my cats. The keys, for some unexplained reason, were now in the hands of Mrs Zurloni, who didn't want to give them back to me, claiming that my hushand had ordered her not to give them to me. I was unable to go back to my home, which had been assigned to me by the Court after our separation. In the meantime, my flat had been vacated of all its furniture. My personal belongings were packed in cardboard boxes and piled in the garage, and Giovanna Zurloni, who was staying at a pension near Treia, would open the door of the garage whenever I needed anything. For a few months, I was the guest of my friend and animal lover Piera Alvares, who had also organised a hunger strike in Macerata to get to know what happened to my cats. A few months later, I found the garage door open. So I went in and put in a cot among the boxes. Next to the garage, there was a small room with a bathroom and kitchen, and I camped out there for a week until my husband discovered me. On the evening of October 26, 2003, around midnight, I had gone out to get some personal belongings in my car, and when I came back I found by former husband at the door, "inviting" me in with a threatenign air, and shouting at me. I was terrified by his threatening and offensive attitude and by his furious tone of voice. That night, I spent several hours under the pouring rain, the neighbours are witnesses to this. I later reported what had happened to the police.

Did you ever find out what happened to your cats?

No. My husband claimed that, since he intended to refurbish the house even though it had been regularly assigned to me by the Court, and seeing that I was away, he had captured the cats two or three at a time and left them free in the open country, a couple of kilometres from the house, near an abandoned farmhouse. Together with my animal lover friends, we combed through the area carefully, and asked the neighbouring farmers questions. None of them had noticed the presence of cats either then or during the following weeks, or found any dead animals. My cats were domestic, they could never survive without food or water. Some were half paralysed, and could not go far away. One had recently been operated, his legs were bound by steel clamps, and he still needed care and antibiotics. The area where my husband claimed that he had left them is not very far, and at least a few of them - no less than 26 disappeared - would have come back home. But not even one ever did, and in all our expeditions, we never found a single animal, dead or alive. My friend and animal lover Piera Alvares made a hunger strike, and the local press wrote about it several times, but nobody came forward to give any information or say they had seen anything. My cats literally vanished into thin air, and I am certain they died. I really cannot believe that my husband "left" them where he says he did. Some traces would have been found, precisely because those little animals were not self sufficient. I don't know whether my husband acted on his own, but I doubt it. I am sure he had outside help, it's not easy to catch 26 cats. I made a regular complaint with the police against him and against the woman I had paid and hired to take care of my animals and who - when I used to call from England - would tell me that everything was alright, even though she knew my cats had been taken away.

What were the reactions of your scientologist friends, or of the church?

Giovanna Zurloni threatened me over the phone, with my friend Piera present and listening, saying she would have me kicked out of the church - thus doing away with my spiritual freedom - if I made any move with the law or the press.

Other followers of the Macerata Mission of Scientology wrote knowledge reports, including Rolando Vissani BCO MC MSN, and Giorgio Rapanelli, a student of the Macerata Mission. As the founder of the local chapter of the Green party, Giorgio asked the animal lovers not to mention the involvement of my scientologist husband and of other staffers of Scientology, just not to cause bad PR to che church. I myself made many reports uplines, even to the Chief of International Justice, to RTC/Los Angeles, to the MAA of Saint Hill and Clearwater, to Mario Sala, C.O. Italy, but I never got any answer.

Rather, stories started to go around in the town I was living in, that the cats had been eliminated because they were sick, and that I had gone to England to cure myself of a sickness I had got from them. This is false. Actually, I was at Scientology at Saint Hill, sent there by Giovanna Zurloni and kept there against my will; my cats were perfectly healthy, cured and cared for with love.

Why do you think they sent you to Saint Hill instead of to Flag as had been agreed on, why you were you kept there even though you had no programme ready, and above all, why did they get rid of your cats?

About this, I have no certainties, just guesses. I certainly felt deeply betrayed by Giovanna Zurloni, an OT 5 and Sea Org Member (therefore very authoritative) whom I thought of as a friend, somebody interested in my welfare and in my psycho-physical health. The only thing I can think is that I and my cats had become a burden, something to get rid of quickly. I have a divorce procedure underway, I live in a flat which belongs to my husband, but which was assigned to me during the separation proceedings by the Court. I would never have given up my house and my animals, to whom I had entirely given myself during the last years. Maybe somebody thought that if they took my cats away, there wouldn't be anything left tying me to these places. I am Hungarian, I am an OT 8 with all that this means in terms of public relations for the church. I imagine that the Sea Org would have found it useful to have a staff member who was an OT 8, able to communicate with all those Hungarians who are coming along the lines in the last few years. Not many people speak Hungarian.

At Saint Hill, I was put under a lot of pressure to join the Sea Org and, although not being at all convinced, I had accepted to start the EPF as I waited for the day I would return to Italy. My husband, who is also an OT 5, would have found it good to have a wife who was far away, engaged in "saving the planet", and not interested in following up the divorce. The only real problem were my cats, and the decision was taken to disperse them. Maybe they underestimated my determination. As I said, I have always been a peaceful woman, who suffered silently for so many years. Maybe they thought I would just go on taking the blows. But you get to a point in life where you have to react, and I reacted.

And what are your relations with the Church of Scientology now? Did your old scientologist friends help you? Did they give you their solidarity?

In September 2005 I asked for total refund of what I had spent to do the whole Bridge up to OT 8, about 250.000 dollars. One can hardly say that I received the benefits promised and guaranteed by the literature of Scientology. The Church of Milan answered that I had not received any service from that association, and that I had never paid out any contribution.

My scientologist friends simply vanished, as if I had never existed. They put me aside like an old shoe. When my status was useful to bring people "on board", I was sought out, served and revered. Now I am simply a bother. On the other hand, I found great solidarity from a lot of people I didn't know at all, from my animal lover friends and from people who never heard of Scientology. I also had a lot of solidarity from former scientologists, some people even left Scientology after getting to know what happened to me.

How are you now?

Not well. I suffer physically, I have heart problems after the stress of all these years. I also suffer psychologically, I have been diagnosed for neurosis and I am being taken care of by a psychologist and a psychiatrist. It's sad to find myself where I started out - indeed worse - after 20 years of dedicating myself body and soul to Scientology, which I joined in the hope of solving my problems, and because of my refusal to use conventional therapies. With two failed marriages behind me and waiting for a divorce.

I say goodbye to Ildiko with my heart full of sadness. I think of all those who, like her, have been the victims of a great dream. The ten cats of her new colony crowd around her and press against her legs. They at least will never betray her.

Simonetta Po


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