Swimmers from Europe and Belarus crossed the Berezina River this weekend in a freezing reenactment of Napoleon’s troops crossing the deadly river 207 years ago.
The dramatic battle took place for four days in late November 1812 as Napoleon’s army was retreating from its invasion of Russia. This year’s reenactment was particularly dedicated to engineers.
Back then, Napoleon’s engineers braved the ferociously cold water to construct bridges across the river. Nearly all of them frozen to death. Their heroic stand saved most of the French troops.
The French suffered heavy losses (up to 40,000 casualties) but managed to cross the river and avoid being trapped. Since then Berezina has been used in French as a synonym for disaster.
Two centuries later reenactors in full period costume along with winter swimmers, aka walruses, gathered near the city of Borisov to commemorate the anniversary of one of the most fierce battles.