Katja Kladnik (Lucky Lady)

Richard Karsmakers

"Make haste slowly." Suetonius, "Lives of the Ceasars"

by Richard Karsmakers

Some of you will maybe remember me mentioning a girl from Slovenia by the name of Lucky Lady that contacted me about 18 months ago for the first time. She has occurred in various installations of the ST NEWS virus column.
As you may recall, she had decided to contact me in a reaction to my "Ultimate Virus Killer", which had in some way caused her to start a kind of 'competition' with her designing and spreading computer viruses and me trying to find and kill them. She sent me each of her creations so that I could update the "Ultimate Virus Killer" recognition algorithms. Although I certainly didnt't approve of all these things she did nor the way she involved me in it, all I could do was play along with the game. I couldn't contact her in return, because she always sent her packages anonymously.
As 1994 was coming to its close, it became apparent that she had left the Atari community and was now concentrating more on the PC side of things. Also, quite suddenly she contacted me via electronic mail. Though I still didn't know her name, I could now at least send messages back to her. Especially with her having left the Atari virus creation scene, something happened which I had not considered possible: Our email messages became more casual and even personal.
Gradually I found our that her real name was Katja Kladnik, who had lost her parents in the Yugoslavian war, though Slovenia was now no longer a war zone. She now lived with foster parents and studied pyschology at the University of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. She was - I know this may sound strange to some of you, especially those struck by any of the viruses she has created - a really fascinating person who had a lot of hidden depths to her personality. We exchanged email messages with quite some regularity, usually involving topics like music, culture and, occasionally, viruses. I always wondered why she had found it so challenging to create computer viruses and start this semi- friendly "virus war" with me, a question that she could never really reply to satisfactorily.

Around spring of this year I noticed her messages getting increasingly gloomy and depressing. She even said, at several occasions, that she wouldn't mind being dead or something. I never knew what triggered this doom and gloom, though it might have been her boyfriend leaving her some time earlier. There was nothing I could do about it, either. Believe me, I tried.
When I emailed to her to ask how she was doing, somewhere around the middle of June, I got a message back after a while from someone else who said that, on June 3rd, 11:53 CET, Katja had died at Ljubljana's main hospital of an Atropine and Scopolamine overdose. Suicide, most likely. She was 22.

Despite the fact that, in theory, Katja "Lucky Lady" Kladnik had started off as something like an enemy, in the course of our correspondence she had become a kind of friend. Especially after she had left the Atari scene, we opened up to each other and I no longer felt that being in contact with her was in some way morally incorrect what with my being a virus killer programmer and her a (by then ex-) Atari virus coder. During the last one or two months she was to me not a virus coder at all, but instead a sad young woman that needed attention and love badly.

Katja, despite the fact that we started off on a really wrong foot, you will be on my mind always; not as a virus coder but as the enchanting and fascinating friend that you gradually became.

This issue of ST NEWS is dedicated to the memory of Katja Kladnik.