Eli Ruiz | Democrat
The Russian Epiphany was celebrated with frigid leaps of faith, in Swan Lake, at Horseshoe Lake, with a brave attendees ready to take the plunge!
Story by Eli Ruiz
SWAN LAKE (Horseshoe Lake) January 22 Traditionally celebrated in Russia every January 19 by the Orthodox Church, “The Epiphany” marks the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. It is believed by the most devout followers, that on this particular day of the year [January 19], water becomes holy and is imbued with special powers.
Hoping to benefit from some of those special powers, many very brave Russians are compelled to cut large holes into frozen lakes and rivers for just a chance to bathe in the “holy” freezing waters.
In 2007, Swan Lake resident Nikolai Rokhlin and his friend Danny Anton decided it would be a great idea to bring The Epiphany to Sullivan County.
“The first year we had just three people who showed up to do it, but over the years it has grown into this,” said Rokhlin referring to the 25-30 people in attendance. “Some people are scared at first but most people after jumping in for the first time say that they can’t wait to do it again,” added Rokhlin.
Rokhlin describes the event as, “A combination religious ceremony and Polar Bear Club.” The original Epiphany according to Rokhlin, was not Christ’s, but of the people to whom John the Baptist had revealed Christ as the “true savior.”
Saturday at his home, and for the seventh consecutive year, Rokhlin held what has come to be called the “Russian Epiphany” on Horseshoe Lake, on which his home sits. Although a few dozen individuals attended the Saturday afternoon event, in the end, only about twelve brave souls lined up to plunge into the icy waters of Horseshoe Lake. For some, it was more than just a religious gesture.
Sixteen year-old Paige Butler took the dive to bond with her mother Jessica. “My mom has done it the last few years and she usually brings her friend Chrissy,” said Paige. “She [Paige] couldn’t come this year so I came along so that she wouldn’t have to do it all alone.”
For Claire Rayevsky of New York City, it was a very personal experience and something she says she did for her father, Rob Rayevsky, who along with his wife, own and operate the Rolling River Café and Inn in Parksville.
“I did it last year and when I came out of the water, the look in my father’s eyes was just something I will never forget,” said Claire. “I wanted to see that look again. I just wanted to make him proud.”
Artist Steven Rosenberg of Connecticut spoke about the experience and said, “The best way to describe it is that you’ve never been so alone with your thoughts, ever. It’s just you and that element absolutely invigorating.”
When asked why he chose to wear bright orange trunks for the event, Rosenberg explained half-jokingly, “To be honest, I wore orange so that if anything did go wrong, I’d be easily found.”
Fortunately for all involved, nothing would go wrong on Saturday.