After two decades, sister won’t give up search
E. Black/ Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Boris Weisfeiler would
have celebrated his 65th birthday last month.
Instead, his sister, Olga Weisfeiler,
spent April 19 in her Thompsonville home like many before - sifting through
boxes of declassified government documents and old newspaper clippings, and
searching the Internet for any information about Boris’ disappearance more
than two decades earlier, on Jan. 4, 1985.
Boris was arrested by Chilean
authorities while hiking on vacation near Colonia Dignidad, a secretive
community that has been linked to the former leader of Chile, President Augusto
Pinochet, who reigned for 27 years.
Paul Schafer, a former Nazi, was the
founder of Colonia Dignidad, and was arrested in March 2005 for possible
molestation of more than two dozen children in the colony. Schafer was also
wanted for possible connections to the disappearance of Boris.
But, while the truth behind Colonia
Dignidad has begun to unfold - like the cache of weaponry, use of drugs to
suppress sexual desire and physical torture as a means of discipline - the
facts regarding Boris’ disappearance have not.
Boris, a renowned mathematics
professor at Penn State University, traveled to Chile alone, in search of
a break from the cold, wintry weather of Pennsylvania.
According to reports, he was arrested
by military police for wandering into the restricted zone of Colonia
Dignidad. However, the colony’s 53-acre area is known to be poorly
demarcated and trespassing, even unintentional, resulted in immediate
For more than two decades, Olga has
continued to fight to determine what happened to her brother. It’s her life
"It’s my work now," Olga
said. "I want to know the truth. I can’t continue my life without
knowing. I must do as much as I can."
Olga has traveled to Chile five times. She’s
met with Chile’s then-Defense
Minister Michelle Bachelet, who is now president of the country. Olga has
placed advertisements on popular Chilean radio stations and in the
country’s most-read newspapers. She’s pleaded with Chilean and American
officials to rekindle the investigation about Boris.
Olga first found a job at Children’s
Hospital when she came to America from Russia. But she was badly
injured in a car accident and now spends most of her time looking for her
Her efforts have garnered the support
of others. In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, dated March
8, a cadre of politicians asked Rice to discuss with President Bachelet the
case of Weisfeiler as a "key outstanding issue in U.S.-Chilean bilateral
Senators Edward Kennedy, Arlen
Specter, John Kerry and Christopher Dodd, along with representatives Nancy
Pelosi, Barney Frank, John Peterson and Edward Markey were among the
Olga, with the help of her son,
created and continues to update a Web site dedicated to Boris’ case. It
contains declassified documents, links to articles, photographs of
politicians, images of the area where Boris was last seen and a detailed
map describing his hiking trip.
To date, Olga’s struggle has led to
little more than scattered and disjointed clues about her brother. But
she’s not giving up.
In March, during her most recent visit
to Chile, she met with dozens
of reporters as U.S. officials displayed
an age-progressed image of Boris created by the Federal Bureau of
"Lately, I can hardly talk about
anything else but my search," she said. "Everybody lives their
own lives ... my life is the search now."
Boris and Olga were born and both
lived in the Soviet Union before Boris departed for the United States in 1975. The
anti-Semitism in Russia, combined with his
being labeled as anti-Soviet, forced Boris to come to the States. Olga
followed her brother’s path after he was reported missing. He received his
American citizenship in 1981.
Boris had traveled extensively
throughout the globe without conflict before his trip to Chile. He had made trips
to Alaska, Canada, China, Peru, India and Europe, among other places,
often spending much of his time hiking in the wilderness.
The details of the day when Boris went
missing are vague. He was hiking along the Chilean-Argentinean border and
was trying to cross a bridge over a river in order to reach a small town
from where he had planned to take a bus back to the airport to fly home.
According to Olga’s research, the
police refused to let him cross the bridge. However, Boris went farther
down the river and managed to cross there. When the police saw him, they
took him in for questioning and asked for his permission to be in the area.
Olga knows little of what happened
next, however, she’s certain of who to blame for
"It was the military who arrested
him, the military who brought him to Colonia Dignidad, the military left
him there," Olga said. "The military is responsible."
Olga insists that others beyond the
one anonymous informant who spoke in the early 1990s about Boris know what
happened to him.
A case was opened initially after his
disappearance, however, was closed "temporarily." It finally
reopened in January 2000, but Olga says that doesn’t mean much.
"I don’t know how they consider
the case open if no one is doing anything," Olga said.
This week, Olga is traveling to Washington, D.C., to meet with
politicians to renew efforts to solve the question of what happened to
Boris in 1985.
Whether or not that work
will be fruitful remains to be seen.
"Am I hopeful? Yes," Olga
said. "I’m a very persistent person."
For more information about the case
of Boris Weisfeiler, visit www.weisfeiler.com/boris.
Daniel E. Black can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or at 781-433-8216.