Naum Barash

A Coney Island Polar Bear recounts his 50 years of winter swimming in Ukraine and Brooklyn

Naum Barash
Interview Date:
July 22, 2017



This interview was conducted and recorded in Russian. Read Mark Markov's transcript and translation below.

A native of Chernovtsy in Ukraine, Naum Barash has enjoyed winter swimming since his days as a student in Kursk and organized a winter swimming club in his hometown. "There we had to break the ice with a crowbar every time we went for a swim. But this worked well as exercise, as a warm-up before we went, so everyone enjoyed doing it," says Barash, who joined the Coney Island Polar Bear Club after immigrating to New York in 1990. The Polar Bears swim for six months of the year - from the first Sunday of November through the last Sunday of April.  Last February, Barash won two gold medals in breaststroke races in his 60-69 age group at the United States Winter Swimming Association National Championship held in the ocean off Coney Island. He shares stories of his experiences as a winter swimmer and talks about the health benefits. "You come out feeling like a newborn, like you were born just a second ago," says Barash. "This year will be my fiftieth season of winter bathing. Every time I get this awesome feeling from bathing. Each and every time."