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Anders Breivik Spared Me, Now I Know Why: Adrian Pracon 'Relieved And Shocked' After Norway Killer's Testimony

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Adrian Pracon (r) and Erik Moller Solheim (l) | ErikSolheim

Adrian Pracon was knee-deep in water off the island of Utoya, in the sights of right-wing extremist Anders Breivik, when he knew he was going to die.

The 21-year-old party worker had already seen many of his friends gunned down by the pitiless killer who would eventually slay 69 people.

Adrian remembers the moment when Breivik aimed the gun.

"All he had to do was squeeze the trigger," he described later, in a book produced with writer Erik Moller Solheim.

"He rested his cheek on the rifle and creased his brow. 'No!' I yelled, with the little strength I still had in my lungs. My arms hung limply at my sides."

"Don't shoot!"

… And then Breivik let him go.

Eventually Adrian was shot - in the shoulder, at point-black range, while playing dead near a pile of bodies - but he survived his harrowing experience. And ever since, the question has plagued Adrian's mind: why did Breivik spare his life?

On Monday he got his answer.

"Certain people look more leftist than others," Breivik said in his final day of testimony at his trial for the murder of the 69 victims on Utoya and eight others in a bombing in Oslo. "This person appeared right-wing, that was his appearance. That's the reason I didn't fire any shots at him.

"When I looked at him I saw myself."

Erik Moller Solheim, who co-wrote a book with Adrian ('The Heart Against The Stone') about his experiences, said that when he heard what Breivik had said his jaw dropped.

For Adrian "his reaction was mixed between relief that he finally got the answer that he had thought about for all these months since the tragedy, but also a realisation that he will never get to the bottom of this", Solheim said.

Above: Adrian Pracon, from the cover of The Heart Against The Stone

As Solheim describes in the book, Adrian still feels guilt that he survived when so many did not. Breivik's testimony simply heightens that reaction.

READ MORE: Adrian Pracon Describes His Harrowing Experience In 'The Heart Against The Stone'

PHOTOS: Norway Still Healing From The 22 July Massacre

"In his darkest moments he has wished that he would prefer not to have lived. Just having to take the responsibility to live his life and the choice that Breivik made for him has been quite a burden," Solheim said.

"The fact that he made this conscious choice about sparing him made his survivor's guilt even stronger. It makes it even harder for him to fathom."

The similarities Breivik saw in himself and Adrian were superficial. Ironically Adrian is the son of Polish immigrants, which runs counter to Breivik's anti-immigration rhetoric. But in other ways, Solheim said, the two men's lives did have similarities.

"Adrian has also come from a difficult upbringing," he said. As a young gay man in a Catholic family he faced difficulties from some of those close to him when he came out - and although he has a good relationship with them now he felt isolated in his later teens.

"He went out of society and isolated himself but Adrian chose to go back to work for the common good and found a new meaning of life.

"Breivik isolated himself even further and made a huge attack on that same common good.

"It's obvious that Breivik is a sick person and Adrian is not," he said. ""But they shared the experience of feeling alienated."

For the survivors of the Utoya massacre and the Oslo bombing Breivik's trial, and in particular his long and gruesome testimony, has been a "double-edged sword" Solheim said. Hearing the testimony can be cathartic, but obviously it can also be exhausting - and harrowing.

Since the attack Adrian has faced his killer once before, in November in an Oslo court room.

But more difficult moments are still to come. He is scheduled to give evidence to the trial, when he will have to confront the man who held his life in his hands but - for reasons still unclear - decided to spare him. And whatever happens when Adrian gives evidence, and when the court delivers its verdict, one thing seems clear: for all the questions the victims still have, some answers will never be clear.

"The last time they met I know he was devastated," Solheim said. "It was such a huge emotional impact on him. Mostly because that was the first time he ever heard him speak or raise his voice.

"Until that moment we could just create this image of this demon, a supernatural being, and he turned out just to be an insecure person.

"That came as a shock to him, to realise that the person who determined his destiny was just a regular guy."

From Adrian Pracon and Erik Moller Solheim, The Heart Against The Stone

"It's hard to say whether he had seen me the whole time or whether he spotted me later. When he did turn round, it happened quickly. In one long, unbroken, sweeping look, he moved his gaze from the swimmers over to me and lifted his weapon. The water was reaching halfway up my thighs. I wasn't going anywhere. He had a living target in front of him. All he had to do was squeeze the trigger. He rested his cheek on the rifle and creased his brow.

'No!' I yelled, with the little strength I still had in my lungs. My arms hung limply at my sides.

'Don't shoot!'

I stopped breathing. My heart was beating so hard that it must have been visible through my wet T-shirt. Where was he going to hit me? In the head? In the heart? I hoped for the heart. And that it would be quick. I had never had a gun aimed at me before. It was a feeling of complete inferiority. He could do to me whatever he wanted.
Dead or alive. It was up to him.

I searched for a response from the man behind the weapon, but all I could see was the open black chasm in his telescopic sight. My body prepared itself for the bullet that was going to penetrate it. My skin stung around my heart and on my forehead.

He closed his eye.

Now it was over.

Then he lowered his weapon, turned on his heel and vanished. I gasped for air. At the same moment, my knees gave way beneath me. With shaking steps, I only barely managed to get up onto the island before I collapsed on the rock.

For some reason I was still alive."

Anders Breivik
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