Anton Pilipa, missing Canadian found near Amazon rainforest, comes home to Toronto
A 39-year-old Toronto man who disappeared in 2012 before turning up near the Amazon rainforest in Brazil is safely back home after his brother launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund his return.
Anton Pilipa was found wandering on the highway near Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon, on Nov. 28, according to a post on the official Facebook page of the Brazilian Highway Police.
Confused, swearing and unable to speak Portuguese, he initially struggled to communicate his identity to the four police officers who arrived at the scene.
But then at one point, he mentioned that he was from Victoria, B.C. and asked for the RCMP — comments that caught the attention of Helenice Vidigal, a Canadian-born officer.
Vidigal, who outlined the entire ordeal in a Facebook post Thursday, contacted the Canadian Embassy in Brasilia and posted a photo on Facebook to seek help identifying the man.
In the meantime, police were unable to hold Pilipa in custody as he hadn’t committed a crime, so he was transferred to a nearby hospital, from where he ran away on Dec. 8.
While the search for him was still ongoing, the Canadian Embassy identified him as Anton Pilipa, and notified his brother Stefan in Toronto.
Highway police then received a tip on Christmas Day that a man matching Pilipa’s description was spotted on a section of the highway adjacent to the Amazon rainforest.
“Here is where we started to really fear for his safety, because up there big predators like jaguars, alligators, snakes among other deadly animals are real, we are talking about the Amazon Jungle,” Vidigal said on Facebook.
Pilipa was found on Jan. 3, and Stefan flew down to Brazil to reunite with his brother.
Stefan, who set up a successful GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Anton’s return, described his brother as “a long time anti-poverty activist and member of radical communities in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto” on the fundraising page.
He said he disappeared without warning in 2012, leaving family and friends devastated.
Vidigal said it was apparent from the start that Pilipa suffered from mental illness.
“The whole picture screamed just one word: vulnerability!” she wrote.
As for the man at the centre of the ordeal, Pilipa told BBC Brasil that he “never felt alone” and that he encountered more generous people than “bad” ones.
“I know that I am very lucky to be alive,” he told the broadcaster. “I am very happy to be able to return to my family.”
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