Sidney Lea Le Bour


2016. Plunge their chainsaws into the water to unfreeze it, lift ice blocks of several hundred kilos in unison and brave the siberian cold and the blowing snow. This is what Maxime, Dima, Yuri and the others face up daily to prepare one of the most popular orthodox events in Russia: Epiphany.

Orthodox religion, prohibited by the communist regime and instrumentalized, has taken the bull by the horns since the fall of the USSR. January 19, hundreds of thousands of faithful gather to celebrate the day of Christ's baptism. And every year, they are still more numerous.

The tradition is to take a dip into icy water holes as here, in Sviyazhsk, on the Volga. During the ceremony, the water is blessed by the main father of the monastery, Hegumen Siluan. Three times, Russian, sometimes sturdy, sometimes skinny, hold their breath and put their noggin underwater. They gush out right away, besieged by water sprays, their pendants fluttering in the air and the cold tensing their muscles.

The thermometer showing -30 degrees regularly in this season, the return is on the double after slipping on a bathrobe and wet socks. Wives and husbands less valorous, who have only looked, at their heels. Some are just filling bottles of holy water and bringing them home to wash, to drink or to sprinkle formica table and linoleum profusely to purify their interior.