It’s been more than eight weeks since 22-year-old Montrealer Jesse Galganov disappeared in Peru, and his mother, Alisa Clamen, who’s back in Montreal after spending weeks flying between Peru and Israel to co-ordinate search-and-rescue efforts, said that no matter how long it takes and how much it costs, she will bring her son home.
“They have to find him. There is no other option,” said Clamen, her voice quavering.
What was meant to be a vacation of a lifetime turned into a nightmare, just days after Galganov, a dual Canadian and American citizen, left Montreal on Sept. 24, for a meticulously planned eight-month backpacking trip through South America and southeast Asia.
Clamen said the last time she heard from her son was Sept. 28, when he texted to say he was planning to hike the Cordillera Blanca mountains and would be unreachable for about four days. When days went by without any contact, she knew something was wrong and began the ongoing campaign to find her missing son.
Clamen spent three weeks in Peru working with the police, the Canadian and American embassies, and various search-and-rescue teams to no avail. She then turned to Magnus International, an Israeli company headed by Yechiel (Hilik) Magnus, an Israel Defence Forces veteran who founded the search-and-rescue organization, which is made up of intelligence-gathering experts, climbing specialists and rescue experts.
She said that when she met with the Magnus team in Israel, she provided them with a psychological profile of her son.
“They’re trying to imagine what they would do if they were him. Which way would he go? They said to me, ‘I think I know your son now as well as you do,’ ” said Clamen, who raised Galganov as a single mother for most of his life. She added that, “I think I’m his best chance. I don’t think anyone knows him better than I do.”
Jesse Galganov’s father, Todd Galganov, is stationed in Lima, awaiting word from authorities.
“After two weeks, (Magnus) still hasn’t found him. They did track down people who spent the night with him, the night of Sept. 30, and left him Oct. 1. That was the last time he was seen,” said Clamen.
“They believe he was heading towards the Panta Union Path. It’s treacherous terrain. There are many places where he could have gone off track … and they’re going through it systematically.… There are crevasses and his clothing was black, so it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack.”
Magnus did find a French couple who spent a night with Galganov before he disappeared.
“They went through the registries of all the people who had signed into the trek at different times.… They figured out who these people are and they contacted them, and the authorities never did this – neither the Peruvian, Canadian or American,” Clamen said.
‘It’s like searching for a needle in a haystack.’
She said that Magnus also identified a Canadian who signed the registry and asked the Canadian embassy for contact information, but the embassy declined, citing privacy laws.
“It’s reminiscent of what I dealt with with Apple,” Clamen said.
In late October, after more than 60,000 people signed a petition to push Apple, Amazon and T-Mobile to release data on Galganov to authorities, they complied.
Despite the many hurdles and mounting costs, Clamen is determined to keep the search going until he is found.
“It is an extraordinarily expensive effort.… We’re up to almost $700,000 U.S. It’s inconceivable.”Alisa Clamen
There is also a reward of US$10,000 ($13,000) offered to anyone who can provide information about his whereabouts.
She said that despite generous donations from the community that continue to come in through their GoFundMe campaigns and the Missing Children’s Network, “it’s not covering the costs, but I’ll do whatever I have to do.… I have been liquidating whatever I can.… I must find my son. I must bring him home.”
When asked if there is anything concerned Canadians can do to assist in the search effort, Clamen said, “Pray. Just pray.”