How Fables and Legends Get Started: Villagers Baffled After Their Lake Disappears
Religious Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Stories
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Submitted by: Yuri Klitsenko

Bolotnikovo wakes up to find its swimming and fishing spot is nothing but a muddy memory.

By Kim Murphy LOS ANGELES TIMES

BOLOTNIKOVO, Nizhny Novgorod - For as long as anyone can remember, White Lake had been the local swimming and fishing hole. Deep, cold, fed by underwater springs, the lake regularly gave up carp as fat as birch trees. A kid could cannonball into its depths from the overhanging willows and never hit bottom.

And then one recent morning, the lake was simply gone.

Fyodor Dobryakov was the first to see it - or not see it, as it were.

The 74­year-old headed down to the lake early one morning two weeks ago, expecting to see the first fish emerging after the spring melt.

Instead, all he saw was a narrow crust of ice clinging to the shore.

Everything else was gone, or almost gone.

"The ice was just hanging over an empty lake. I heard a noise, and when I looked right, I saw there was an abyss, and the water was rushing into the abyss like mad. The trees were falling into the lake and getting sucked in too," Dobryakov said at his home in this small village of pensioners, about 375 kilometers east of Moscow near the Oka River in the Nizhny Novgorod region.

Within minutes, all that was left of the 16-meter-deep lake was a silent expanse of mud a half-kilometer wide. Small fish were flapping their death throes near the small, deep pool, which was all that remained.

Dobryakov rushed back to the village and grabbed a friend. "I told him, The lake's collapsed, the water's gone.' My friend said, 'You're lying.' I said, 'Of course I'm a liar, but not this time.'"

The authorities were called, then the television stations. All braved clouds of black flies and mosquitoes to troop through the forest and investigate the case of the disappearing lake. Where Bolotnikovo residents once picnicked and swam, there was now only a huge crater, caked mud sprouting shoots of new grass.

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Yuri Klitsenko is a Russian living in Moscow.  He works for the Russian Orthodox Church.

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