Vladimir Rausch, Tatiana Vitebskaya, Irina Tumakova (
A couple of notes:
- All links to Wikipedia articles have been added by me – I think they can be helpful to non-Russian readers.
- A note on names – Evgeni/ Zhenya/ Zhen’ka and Maria/ Masha/ Mashka are like William/ Will/ Willy.
"Zhenya Plushenko's divorce can become an affair such as Russian athletes have not seen before. Zhenya was hunted for several years. And he was caught." Such was a sensational version of the mysterious divorce of Evgeni Plushenko and Maria Yermak as told to "Nedelya" by an athlete close to the famous skater. It's a shame to lose the beautiful story of how this couple met. It's a shame that when something didn't work out so many intimate details and hurtful accusations had to surface.
Of course, only two people really know the truth of what happened. Masha's family has its version. However, we don't know what it is as both Masha and her parents are silent, saying that the nursing mother needs her rest. "God forbid you go through what my daughter is going through", Masha's dad George Yermak told "Nedelya". That's understandable. After what Plushenko's family has been saying about his daughter's life with the skater, Yermak family lawyers are ready to meet the son-in-law in court.
Masha was born in a very well-to-do family. Her dad is known well in
Masha, meanwhile, has recorded several CDs with her songs. She is now finishing the
The girl lives with her parents near Peter, in a resort town of
According to Zhenya's mom, he got huge prize money following the Turin Olympics; our sources put it at about half a million dollars. Masha supposedly told her husband he had to leave the sport. At issue was Zhenya's participation in his father-in-law's businesses. Evgeni Plushenko put all his savings into the Yermak business.
However, the version of the rich Yermaks hunting his money falls apart at mathematical calculations. Roughly speaking, Plushenko's worth could not much exceed a million dollars. "That's not real money for the business of Yermak's level", say the experts. "Even if we assume a nightmarish scenario where a businessman would use his daughter for profit, Plushenko is only now beginning to make real money".
The news of Evgeni Plushenko's divorce did not surprise the athletic world of
Version one: Masha and Zhenya are too different
"Of course, everyone is talking about it now", said Plushenko's former training colleague who is now coaching on his own. "What do they say? In general, everyone sympathizes with Zhen'ka. Like, he is a fool to have rushed into the marriage. They should have lived together a while, no hurry, see how things were... However, he was always very spontaneous. If something felt right, he didn't think long about it."
There is one thing everybody in Peter seems to agree on. With all appropriate disclaimers - we weren't looking through the peep-hole, and who can trust rumors, and all that - everybody ultimately admitted that Masha Yermak struck everyone from the start as condescending, spoiled, and yet very calculating.
“Sometimes she’d come to Yubileyny to watch Evgeni practice”, says a club’s female employee. “Always perfectly made up, all dolled up, in a fancy Mers. At best, she’d nod at being greeted. And then I see she starts coming real often. Turns out she decided to go with Zhenya to some championship, and did the paperwork through the sports school. Real miser, that one, though she could have paid for the paperwork herself with all her riches.”
Plushenko’s reputation in athletic circles is very different. Many still remember how he struggled financially with his mom right after they moved to Peter from
On the other hand, almost everyone we talked to agree that Yermak didn’t marry for money. “Her father’s money could buy ten Zhenya’s”, another Yubileyny employee told Nedelya. “She needed his name, that’s all. Just imagine how jealous the society circles will be if you say – ‘Plushenko is my husband’!”
Version two: Zhenya strayed
People were far less unanimous about the version of the skater cheating on his legal second half, and that causing the whole brouhaha.
“Let’s be honest here, Zhen’ka likes women”, admits Plushenko’s former colleague. “And the girls are always clinging to him. Fun, charming, and World junior champion at 14! But all that was a long time ago, before the marriage. After that, I never saw him with any other girls. Yeah, I heard the rumors of his supposed affair with Tatiana Totmianina. Personally, I never saw them hugging, or even holding hands.”
Menshikova is a bit more ambiguous on the point. “In theory, I could see him with Totmianina. They’re much alike, both ambitious and persistent, though they’re both from the provinces. In practice, though, I doubt it. You know, I know almost all of his girlfriends – both Masha and his ex – Ulyana Petrova. As for Tanya, it’s just rumors.”
Version thee: his wife’s circle depressed Zhenya
Some explain the divorce simply – Zhen’ka has had it.
“You know, Plushenko had a very strong inner core”, said an ex-colleague. “In our group, we had 8-10 almost adult kids training. Suddenly, some provincial kid comes in, and is all talented and independent. Of course, many tried to put him in his place.
As the youngest one, he was supposed to carry the stereo with the music, lock up the changing room after practice, etc. Zhenya wouldn’t do it. He’d get punched, a few times kids even tried to beat him up for real. Eventually, though, they gave up – it would be pointless. I think his wife’s circle depressed him the same way. So he told them to go to hell…”
Yubileyny female employees who know Zhenya’s mom Tatiana Vasilievna well come to a similar conclusion. “She never spoke ill of her son’s girlfriends in public. Now, it’s like a flood. I guess it was all just too much.”
* * *
Plushenko’s obstacles on the way to glory
Zhenya was born near the end of the earth – in a small settlement near Khabarovsk where his parents were building the BAM.
The boy was moved to Volgograd as a sickly four-year-old. He became a skater by accident. A neighbor girl of Zenya’s age gave him her skates just to avoid having to go the skating classes which she hated. Only three months later, the 4-year-old Plushenko was seventh out of 15 competitors.
At six, he won the “Chrystal Skate” at his first real competition in
Winning Junior Worlds at 14 gave Zhenya $10,000. He spent the money on gifts – bought a car for his father, and some fashionable things for his mom and sister. Then he gathered all the little kids at the rink, and took them to the store of remote-controlled cars. They were walking down the street and “buzzing”…
* * *
Why is the skater silent?
Evgeni Plushenko is a public and very much loved person in our country. Clearly, family problems can make even the most cool-headed person sweat. We think, though, that even the most yellow press would stop hunting Zhenya if he made a statement, oral or written. He could say he’s going through a tough time, and he is a good son and understands his mom’s emotional state. That he personally respects his wife and mother of this child. That he therefore asks those who love and respect his to give his family a chance to sort things out. Perhaps even to work through them. Such performance could become the best one of his life.
Tatiana Vasilievna, Evgeni Plushenko’s mom: “Zhenya tried breaking up three times”
The marriage showed its first cracks just two months after the beautiful wedding. This is what the famous skater’s mom told the Nedelya correspondent in Saint Petersburg Irina Tumakova.
He would leave and come back.
Neither Evgeni nor Maria say anything about why their marriage failed so miserable. He’s touring in
“Of course, we thought Zhen’ka is too young to get married, but we did like Masha a lot”, she says. “She is a decent girl and a good mother. For almost a year before the wedding she lived with us outside the city; she’d share a lot, and help around the house, cook too. Then, after the wedding, they moved into their apartment.”
A wedding is essentially just a legal stamp on the already existing relationship, and it shouldn’t have changed much in Zhenya’s and Masha’s lives. According to the mother-in-law, though, that’s not how it played out.
“After the wedding, Masha changed a lot”, says Tatiana Vasilievna. “She became very jealous.”
“Perhaps”, I ask carefully “he gave her reason?”
“Yes, he always had a lot of girls. But when he lived with her, he didn’t have anyone else. He really loved her. And it’s not just that she was jealous of him, she wanted him to be jealous of her as well! He’d come home from practice, and she’d phone someone, supposedly a man, right in front of him – ‘hey, how’re you doing?’ she’d be making plans, making sure that Zhenya would hear it. So, he snapped!”
According to Plushenko’s mom, Evgeni first packed up his things and left his wife two months after the wedding. It happened three times after that. Mom would convince him to return to his wife.
Two week after yet another fight, says Tatiana Vasilievna, it turned out that Masha is finally expecting a child.
“She really wanted to get pregnant, and was very upset that there was no baby after a year together. Everyone told her – wait, you’ll have time.”
Sports career or business?
Plushenko doted in his pregnant wife. He tried not to worry her. And he kept time with his parents to the minimum.
“Masha just wouldn’t let him visit us”, says Tatiana Vasilievna.
“Why couldn’t they visit you together?”
“She wouldn’t! He couldn’t just tell her, “Masha, you stay home, I’m going”. Our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter spend the weekends with us. And the dog that Zhen’ka adores. And what about us, mom and dad? Of course, Zhen’ka wanted to spend weekends with us, that’s what he always used to do. But when they would come – half an hour later Masha would get a stomachache, or a headache, so they’d have to go home. Finally, I would come to his practices just to see my son.”
Zhenya would leave his wife and then come back. If we take his mom at her word, Masha was jealous of any lady’s silhouette on the horizon. Daily fights would only cease when the skater left home.
“I would tell him to stick it out, that they’d get used to one another. Then in May of last year, a month before Yegor was born, he told me, “Mom, have some pity on me!” He just fell out of love with her. You see? He doesn’t want to, he can’t live with her. Zhenya told her, “Let’s do this amicably”. He said it even before Yegor was born! He just doesn’t love her!”
Mom thinks that their marriage finally ended after the Turin Olympics, when the question came up of him leaving the sport.
The skater himself considered going into business. He dreamed of a hotel chain. Yet he only wanted this after the end of this athletic career. “I am still young, I want to skate”, he said. Masha insisted that it was enough.
Finally, Zhenya Plushenko gave his father-in-law entrepreneur George Yermak his Olympic prize money along with his savings. He also announced that was leaving eligible sport for the time being.
“He just needed a rest. He didn’t have time to breath since he was four – practices, competitions, training camps, more practices”, explains Tatiana Vasilievna.
Yegor Yermak instead of Christian Plushenko
Despite all the fights and difficulties, the Plushenkos were awaiting their child. Evgeni left his wife yet again in May, a month before his son’s birth. The baby is now turning 8 months. Evgeny’s friends say he adores his son, always carrying his pictures with him. Despite this, Plushenko did not come back to his wife after the baby was born.
Meanwhile, during his short life the boy already managed to change a name and a surname.
“Zhenya wanted to call his son Sashka, he really likes the name”, sighs Tatiana Vasilievna. “But Masha decided back when she was pregnant that it would be Christian.”
Ok, no problem. Yet while the skater was out of town, the baby was named Yegor Yermak instead of Christian Plushenko. Later on, it turned out that Masha went back to her maiden name without waiting for the divorce, and changed that baby’s paperwork as well.
“Don’t worry, Yegor is a good name too”, says Evgeni.
However, Tatiana Vasilievna insists that Zhenya never agreed to have his son’s last name changed.
Little Yegor, as is often the case in star families, is now a hostage of his parent’s problems. Evgeni Plushenko will likely have to go to court just for the right to see his child. According to the mother-in-law, Masha is currently refusing him this.
“Perhaps, Zhenya offended his wife?” I ask the mom, trying to find some explanation to the illogical actions of the spouses.
“He left her! He left her, he doesn’t want to live with Masha anymore…”
February 16, 2007.