Mathias Rust today
It has been an unusually warm spring day in Hamburg. Even though it is only 21 May 2007, the mercury is showing 25 degrees. Mathias Rust has chosen to dress appropriately for the unexpected summer heat when I meet him at 6.00 pm in the lobby of Hotel Park Hyatt in the centre of Hamburg.
He walks towards me, smiling, wearing a green polo-necked shirt, jeans and discreet black sports shoes. He is very tanned, and looks like a casually-dressed American business traveller in sports clothes. But his strong German accent gives him away immediately. He smiles as he reaches out to shake my hand firmly.
“Hello Mr. Olsen, Nice to finally meet you!”
I have been corresponding with Mathias Rust during the previous months, and I have finally managed to get him in front of a television camera.
Mathias Rust was born in 1968 and is 39 years old today. He lived in several different places around the world during the 1990’s, but today he has settled back into a small town outside his birthplace, Hamburg. He has caught the local train into Hamburg city to meet me today.
He is now working as a financial advisor, advising private investors and companies about investment in properties in the Baltic countries and elsewhere. He has just returned earlier today from a business trip to Istanbul. Rust has also discovered another source of income. He has become a keen Poker player for high stakes, and has come away from the table with a major windfall on several occasions.
Huge media interest
His life has had its ups and downs since he became world famous at 19 years of age for his spectacular flight to Moscow. When he returned home after 14 months in prison in Moscow, he lived with his family for the first year while he regained his strength. The combined world media had besieged the little town of Wedel where Mathias Rust’s parents live. There was a huge interest in knowing everything about the young West German.
The US NBC television station built a 38-metre tall antenna to allow them to make live broadcasts from the town, and the German weekly magazine, Stern, paid the Rust family 100,000 Deutschmarks to have exclusive rights to interview Mathias and the rest of his family.
When Mathias Rust looks back on the time after his homecoming today, they are not happy memories. “It was simply much too much”, he says.
After a while, the interest from the media and his surroundings calmed down, and it was some time before Mathias Rust again made headlines in the German newspapers.
In 1989 he was due to do military service, and his application to serve as a conscientious objector was approved. He had to work for 20 months as a nursing assistant in a hospital in Hamburg.
However, he only stayed at the hospital for three months. It ended tragically when he stabbed a female nursing assistant twice in the stomach with a knife, after she refused to go out with him. Mathias Rust was charged and imprisoned for attempted murder. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison, but was released after only 15 months for good behaviour. Today, Mathias Rust still doesn’t really know what came over him when he stabbed the woman in the stomach. And he isn't at all interested in talking about these years of his life in front of a camera.
While the trial was in progress he married a Polish woman, but the trial and the imprisonment put a lot of strain on the marriage, and the pair divorced just before Mathias Rust was released.
Since the trial he has only spoken to the foreign media on rare occasions, and has refused any contact with the German media.