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After two decades, sister won’t give up search
By Daniel 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 arrest.


    For more than two decades, Olga has continued to fight to determine what happened to her brother. It’s her life focus.


    "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 brother.


    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 relations."


    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 signatories.


    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 Investigation.


    "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 his capture.


    "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 dblack@cnc.com or at 781-433-8216.




Olga Weisfeiler’s brother, Boris, was arrested by Chilean military police while hiking on vacation in the mountains there 21 years ago. (Staff Photo By David Gordon)




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