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People plunge into icy water in Kyiv to mark Epiphany (PHOTOS)

by Kostyantyn Chernichkin January 19, 2022 8:43 PM 3 min read
A man reacts to the icy water during the Orthodox Christian feast of Epiphany on Jan. 19, 2022 in Kyiv's Obolon district. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)
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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.

A woman reacts after taking a dip in icy water during the Epiphany Day celebrations of Epiphany on Jan. 19, 2022 in Kyiv's Obolon district. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)
Priests bless the water in the Dnipro River during the Epiphany Day celebrations at Kyiv's Obolon district on Jan. 19, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)

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.

People walk into the icy waters of the Dnipro River during the Epiphany Day celebrations at Kyiv's Obolon district on Jan. 19, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)
People dress after swimming in the cold waters of the Dnipro River during the Epiphany Day celebrations in Kyiv on Jan. 19, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)

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.

A lifeguard looks at man as he dips into the icy waters of the Dnipro River during the Epiphany Day celebrations in Kyiv's Obolon district on Jan. 19, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)
A man prays as he dips into the Dnipro River during the Epiphany Day celebrations in Kyiv's Obolon district on Jan. 19, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)

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.

A priest sprinkles believers with holy water during the Orthodox Epiphany service at the Dnipro River in Kyiv's Obolon district on Jan. 19, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)

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.

A man takes a dip into the Dnipro River during the Epiphany Day celebrations in Kyiv's Obolon district on Jan. 19, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)
A man dips into the Dnipro River during the Epiphany Day celebrations at Kyiv's Obolon district on Jan. 19, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)

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.

Priests participate in the Orthodox Epiphany service at the Dnipro River in Kyiv's Obolon district on Jan. 19, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)
A man takes a dip in icy water during the Orthodox Christian feast of Epiphany on Jan. 19, 2022 in Kyiv's Obolon district. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)

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