As the Kazakhstani Orthodox Christians are getting ready for the upcoming religious ice-swimming event as part of the Epiphany celebration, so is the Astana’s Aquatic Lifeguard Service.
In the remembrance of Jesus’ baptism, Orthodox Christians submerge themselves in icy water. The tradition that started some time before the October Revolution (1917) was almost forgotten during the Soviet era. With the end of the Soviet regime, many Christians could finally breath freely and resumed the celebratory practice. Despite not being endorsed by the Russian Orthodox Church, many believe that ice swimming cleanses them from their sins.
Georgy Savruk of the Astana’s Aquatic Lifeguard Service said that two ice swimming locations have been set up for the event in Astana: in the metropolitan park in Esil district and near the Grand Astana residential estate at Shamshi Qaldayaqov Street. Ice swimming will take place on January 18-19. “There will be two ice holes and two yurts (portable Kazakh tent). Safety is going to be carefully provided,” Savruk said. Medical assistance will be available 24 hours a day to all who might need it.
In Almaty, ice swimming will take place on January 18-19 at <i>Zhivonostny Istochnik</i> church (Life-giving Spring) in Cosmos village, Talgar district. On January 19th, the ice swimming will be available in the <i>Bolshaya Almatinka</i> river (Big Almaty river).
To eliminate any unfortunate accidents during the celebration, lifeguard Ivan Vlaskin gave a demonstration of ice swimming for beginners. “You will need a towel or a robe, a bathing suit and flip-flops. You do not want your feet to freeze on ice. And that is it. You have to keep calm. (…) You should not be afraid, but instead view it as just another challenge in your life,” Vlaskin instructed during his ice swimming 101 demo.
It might be a dare, but caution is the key. “When entering the ice hole, you need to hold on to the railing and before submerging you need to take a deep breath and hold you breath,” added the lifeguard.
The lifeguards discourage people with health problems from taking part in ice swimming. “The water under the ice is +2 or +3 degrees Centigrade, nevertheless it is a ice water. The cold shock is strong and it gives a severe stress that can cause a heart failure in a person with heart problems or lead to other dangerous situations,” Savruk added.
The chief lifeguard of Astana Savruk said that on January 18, the services ensuring safety of the swimmer would start working at 9 p.m. People who are in a hurry to be first to ice swim can start at 11 p.m.
Savruk assured that no one who under the influence of alcohol will be allowed to dip in the ice holes.
So what is important to remember? Be it a religious celebration or an ice swimming contest, safety is the key. Do not forget your towels and a little bit of courage. The lifeguards will take care of the rest.