Russian hero honoured in U.S.
Nearly a year after his death, he has been awarded the Carnegie Medal for his bravery.
In 2006, Paulina Filippova’s life was nearly lost when she slipped off the trail walking in the Utah Mountains, and fell 25 metres onto rocks below.
“It is just the most terrifying moment in my life. I see that she’s falling and I realise I’m too late. I can’t grab her anymore. I can’t do anything right now,” recalled Olga Filippova, Paulina’ mother.
Vitaly Tsikoza, the 41-year-old software designer from Novosibirsk, had a soft spot for Paulina, being a close family friend.
He was hiking with Olga and her children when the accident happened. With no help in sight, he climbed down attempting to reach Paulina on a narrow ledge. While doing so, he slipped further and fell almost 150 metres to his death.
“What we think is that Vitaly walked toward Paulina, and also from what I have found out later, he heard her from there and he told her: ”Paulina, I’m coming for you.“ He told her that, and after that he fell. Because that rock slide is really…I think he just stumbled,” supposes Olga Filippova.
Emergency workers say the girl miraculously held on to shrubs until a ranger and a climber reached her, and a rescue helicopter heaved her from the canyon.
“He was definitely a hero, trying to save a little girl that wasn’t a member of his own family. And he just jumped knowing he had to get down there very quickly. And unfortunately too quickly, and went over the cliff. It was very courageous and very admirable for Vitaly to attempt to save Paulina,” said Mark Ellison, rescue ranger.
VitalyTsikoza was buried in Russia and left a 14-year-old daughter. The Filippovs have created a website for their friend, where they say his life and accomplishments can be shared and celebrated.
“He’s just the bravest man that I’ve ever known. And he’s the noblest man that I know. So I feel very honoured that I knew him and I feel very sad that I will not be able to talk to him again,” added Olga Filippova.