Dozens of people plunged into the icy waters of the Dnipro River on Jan. 19 in Kyiv's northern district of Obolon to celebrate Epiphany.
The tradition to bathe in the freezing water of a river or lake comes from a popular belief that on this day, the water brings health or even washes away one's sins.
Lately, the perception of this ritual in Ukraine has been changing. Some point out that the tradition isn't native to Ukraine, and has been adopted from Russia in the 20th Century. In light of Russia's war against Ukraine, which has been ongoing since 2014, the subject becomes sensitive.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine has been vocal in its objections to the bathing tradition. The church was established in 2019 as an independent Ukrainian church, an alternative to the Moscow Patriarchate-governed church which was previously the largest in Ukraine.
While the Orthodox Church of Ukraine opposes the bathing tradition, the Russia-backed church, which still remains popular in Ukraine, actively encourages it. The celebration in Obolon was organized by one of the local churches from the Russia-backed Orthodox church.
The practice comes with some risk: a 52-year old man was found drowned today after taking an icy dip near the town of Fastiv in Kyiv Oblast, according to a police report.