Skip to main content

Bolshoi's Sergei Filin: I can't forgive attackers who took my eyesight

By Matthew Chance and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 8:38 AM EST, Wed December 4, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "It's not just a problem with my eyes, it's a problem with my heart," says Sergei Filin
  • Filin says he accepts court's verdict for his attackers but cannot forgive them
  • "It hurt all over my skin and I immediately felt an atrocious pain in my eyes," he says of attack

Aachen, Germany (CNN) -- Three men have been sent to prison for the acid attack that nearly blinded Sergei Filin. But the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet says that nothing can give him back what he has lost.

In an exclusive interview with CNN in Aachen, Germany, on the day his attackers were sentenced in a Moscow court, Filin said the attack had dented his spirit as well as leaving him in agony and partially disfigured.

"It's not just a problem with my eyes, it's a problem with my heart," he said.

Filin now wears dark glasses much of the time and has undergone numerous surgeries in Germany since the attack in a Moscow street last January.

3 convicted in acid attack
Dancer found guilty in acid attack

And he bears the pain of knowing that it was one of the dancers in his own world-renowned company who masterminded the attack, star soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko.

Dmitrichenko was sent to prison for six years Tuesday, while accomplice Yuri Zarutsky was sentenced to 10 years and driver Andrei Lipatov got four years.

Filin said he accepts the court's verdict and sentencing -- but he is not prepared to forgive and forget.

"Of course not, I cannot forgive them because there is no sentence nor punishment today that would enable me to recover my eyesight, the eyesight that I once had," he said.

"What will happen in the course of my future treatment, nobody knows. Whatever is ahead, it will be a struggle."

So far doctors have managed to restore some of Filin's vision, but his sight remains impaired.

'It hurt all over my skin'

As a dancer, Sergei Filin was one of Russia's brightest stars.

Now 43, he took up the key role of artistic director at the storied Bolshoi Ballet in 2011, after three years directing Moscow's Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theater, amid what was reported to be fierce rivalry.

He won the position but his artistic leadership of Russia's most prominent cultural icon has been marred by scandal, not least the horrific attack he suffered outside his Moscow home.

Filin recalls what happened on that fateful January day, when a masked assailant tossed sulfuric acid into his face.

"What I felt was unbearable agony. It hurt all over my skin and I immediately felt an atrocious pain in my eyes," he said.

"There was lots of snow around and I slid and fell several times. But I felt the cold snow was relieving the pain, so I started covering my face with it."

He was eventually helped by passersby. But the damage was already done -- and the next time he was seen in public, it was with his head swathed in bandages and third-degree burns to his face and eyes.

When it emerged that Dmitrichenko was behind the attack, the dark rivalries and score-settling at the heart of the Bolshoi were laid bare, amid allegations of affairs, corruption and jealousy.

Filin does not believe that different actions on his part might have resulted in a different outcome.

"Those accusations that we have heard have not been underpinned by any evidence," he said. "They are all lies aimed at lessening the degree of guilt or punishment for this crime."

READ: 3 men sentenced in Bolshoi Ballet acid attack case

READ: The power struggle tearing apart the Bolshoi

CNN's Matthew Chance reported from Aachen and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:42 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 4:58 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 11:33 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
updated 6:21 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT