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Tuesday, 06 February 2007

Beaten in the Banya, Ukraine - Page 2

Written by Daniel Reynolds Riveiro
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I was naked except for a pair of plastic sandals and the brown felt version of Gilligan’s hat. My friend, Kiril, was unadorned in the exact same manner. He was also beating me with birch branches. I’m told this is a Ukrainian tradition. I probably shouldn’t have told his mother, Larissa, that I’d had a sore throat


The banya was a tiny, stand-alone structure, fifteen feet long and four feet wide, hand-built by the neighbor out of mortared white brick and surrounded by snow. A wide pipe jutting out of the corrugated metal roof leaked ashy smoke into the sky.


We opened the door and stepped inside.

Directly in front of us was the banya’s heart: a massive stove built of uneven pieces of iron, burning huge hunks of scrap wood. To the left was the room with the steam room, shower and pool. To our right was the sauna, where three teenage boys were sitting and relaxing in their underwear. “Good,” I thought. I get to keep my underwear on.

After introductions, the teenagers moved into the steam room to let us have the sauna, but not before removing their last figurative fig leaves.


Kiril and I took off all our clothes, put on our sandals and hats, and then sat in the dry heat to talk. Ten minutes later, we were in the banya’s other room. The wood-enclosed steam room took up one quarter of the room. I could hear the three boys beating each other in there, loud painful-sounding thwacks.

This “cure” was sounding worse all the time.

(Page 2 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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