Life in Russia: The real story

Swimming in the Winter

Every year, not long after New Year’s Day, tens of thousands of Russians jump into icy waters to kick off the cold season. This ritual, which may appear bizarre to us, dates back over a century. To be able to swim in the cold water, the swimmers must first drill holes in the ice. You might be shivering just thinking about it, yet many Russians believe cold swimming is beneficial to both the body and the soul. Jitka Tauferova, 76, discusses the advantages: “The last time I had the flu was 25 years ago, and my back pain went.” Better blood circulation aids in the mending of shattered bones, and my heart is as strong as a hammer. “I’m feeling fantastic.”

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