Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre became embroiled in scandal at the start of this year, when artistic director and former lead dancer Sergei Filin had acid thrown into his face outside of his Moscow home.
The brutal attack threw the Russian dance world into the spotlight, with petty jealousies and brutal vendettas taking centre stage. A dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, has now admitted to organising the attack, but Filin’s family suspects the conspiracy goes even further.
New Yorker editor David Remnick, himself former Moscow-bureau chief for the Washington Post, has taken a long dive into the scandal, and it’s well worth reading the entire thing.
One remarkable passage at the beginning describes, in graphic detail, Filin’s immediate reaction to the attack.
“In those first seconds, all I could think was, How can I relieve the pain?” Filin told me later. “The burning was so awful. I tried to move. I fell face first into the snow. I started grabbing handfuls of snow and rubbing it into my face and eyes. I felt some small relief from the snow. I thought of how to get home. I was pretty close to my door. There’s an electronic code and a metal door, but I couldn’t punch in the numbers of the code. I couldn’t see them. When I understood that I couldn’t get into the building, I started shouting, ‘Help! Help! I need help!’ But no one was around. I tried to make my way to another entrance, in the hope that someone would see me and help me. But that was not such a good idea, because I was falling down and getting up and bumping into cars and into walls and falling down because I couldn’t see any steps. There was so much snow. Snow was coming down. I kept rubbing it into my face.
“When I understood that there was no use shouting for help, I decided to reach into my pocket and put my mobile phone in my hand. I hoped someone would call me. I couldn’t see the screen, so I couldn’t dial. Usually, I get one call after another, but there were no calls for some reason. I tried to knock on the door of each entrance. I’m quite strong and I banged very loudly, but no one was coming out to help. Then the phone slipped out of my hand and I lost it in the snow. The pain in my eyes and face was so terrible that I had a wave of thought: I was dying. But I only wanted to die if it was in the arms of my wife. The pain was unbearable. I really thought this might be the end of me.”
Filin stopped talking for a while, gathering his memory. Then he said, “I remembered that at the parking lot there’s a booth with security guards, and I hoped there would be someone there. So I ran in what I thought might be the direction of the parking lot. My eyes couldn’t see, but somehow my bodily navigation was alert and it moved me in the right direction. I kept falling down and bouncing off the cars, as if I were the ball in a pinball machine. Eventually, I made my way to this booth and I started banging on the window. And here I finally lucked out. There was a guard there. He said he was absolutely shocked when he saw me. He immediately scooped up more snow and rubbed it into my face. By now I was trembling. I’d developed some sort of fever, it must have been shock, and I kept saying, ‘Please call Masha, please call Masha.’ I really thought I was dying. So he called an emergency number—for an ambulance—and then he called upstairs to Masha, who came out of the apartment and to the parking lot. I don’t want to discuss the nightmare that came next: my wife’s reaction, the reaction of my relatives who saw me in this condition. I could hear them crying and I understood that what they saw in my face was something . . . horrendous.”
Filin is currently recovering in Germany, where he is undergoing surgery to save his eyesight (the New York Times reports that he is expected to regain most of his sight in his left eye at least).
Of course, the scandal is far from over. One dancer — viewed by some as a suspect in the case — told Remnick he doubted there was even any acid in the jar.
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