Wife Plans Last Indonesia Trip to Bid Farewell to Lost Spouse
The hardest part for Galina Raede is not really knowing.
It has been almost five years since her husband, John, a professor at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, disappeared while traveling alone in the jungles of Indonesia.
She has convinced herself, after three visits, that her husband was probably murdered--for the camera and the $2,400 he was carrying--and then dumped somewhere near Bukittinggi.
Life goes on, and Raede does her best to join the parade. But time has not erased the uncertainty. “Everybody dies, and you bury them,” she said. “I never found the remains of my husband.”
So she will be leaving her home in Alhambra this summer for another trip to Indonesia. This time, she holds no hopes of finding John, the man she met more than 40 years ago in a Nazi labor camp, when hope was all they had.
‘People Visit Graveyards’
She’s going this time to say goodby. “People, you know, visit graveyards,” she said. And they remember.
She certainly remembers the June day in 1982 when her 68-year-old husband failed to make the weekly telephone call he always made when traveling to expand his understanding of foreign languages and cultures.
A professor at Westmont for 15 years, the German-born educator taught several languages, including German, Spanish and Russian.
When the phone call did not come, and she and Westmont officials could not get any response through diplomatic channels, Raede flew to Jakarta.
She said she got the bureaucratic runaround from police.
She found her husband’s belongings in his hotel room and learned that he had last been seen heading toward a lake near Bukittinggi on the island of Sumatra. But she left a few days later without her husband.
In September, 1982, Raede got word that her husband was alive, being held by Muslim extremists who thought he was a Christian missionary.
She flew back and met with a man who told her that he could rescue John. She gave the man a picture of herself to give John, writing on the back: “You can trust this man. I am waiting for you.”
She also gave the man $500--and never saw him again.
By now, Santa Barbara attorney Jamie Nichols had become interested in her case and took it on for free.
One of the theories about her husband was that he was caught spying in Indonesia. He had been an underground Resistance fighter in France during World War II.
That caused the Nazis to arrest him in October, 1943. He was separated from his first wife, who was sent to die at Auschwitz. He was sent to a labor camp, where he and the Russian-born Galina met.
In November, 1982, Nichols filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the State Department and the CIA to find out what non-classified information they had on Raede.
The CIA said it had nothing and the State Department did not respond, Nichols said.
In March, 1983, Nichols and Raede flew to Indonesia. Nichols had tracked down two Canadians who were in the same hotel with Raede the day he disappeared. They told Nichols that they were with the professor on a visit to the village of Lawang but that he had stayed behind.
John Raede told them that he would meet with them at the bus later, the Canadians recalled. He never made it.
Nichols went to Lawang and spent days hacking through the jungle looking for clues.
Raede was undoubtedly robbed and murdered, Nichols said.
When Nichols and Galina Raede flew back, they held a press conference, blasting the State Department for inaction, and filed a suit to get the Freedom of Information Act documents.
Nichols won, but said the documents--mostly telexes, internal memos and letters--revealed little.
He also filed, as the information act allows, a claim for his fees. The government objected, but Nichols also won that--$23,023 for him, $2,453 for Raede’s expenses.
He also helped write a cover story for “California Lawyer” using the Raede case to illustrate what attorneys can do to help the families of missing people.
Nichols said he was also able to help Raede collect about $75,000 in life insurance, after first getting a court to agree that her husband was, in all likelihood, dead.
With all that behind them, Raede and her attorney have remained close. Nichols recently took his family to the Raede home for the fourth straight year to celebrate Russian Easter.
Raede retired from her engineer’s job last year. She said the experience with her missing husband damaged her heart, and not just emotionally.
But she is doing better now. She’s planning for the August trip to Indonesia.
This, she said, will be the last time.