Being in a city under siege

After last post and the video about Homs in Syria I received some more questions about how it felt in city under siege. So today I share some details about this kind of chaotic urban warfare situation.

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When SHTF there might not be army outside shooting at you, but there might be gangs who prey on you to get your supplies. Being under siege feels like someone takes the ground away you walked on.

Nothing is like it was before. When you defend your home you need to have mindset change. Home is not cozy secure place anymore. Home is the place you chose to defend yourself and loved ones. You will feel very different about place you used as defensive base forever.

To stay protected or to try to protect against firing and shelling required some skill, knowledge and in lot of the times good luck.

I can say that at the beginning people acted very brave, but on the other side that was not courage, it was more like lack of knowledge how easily man can be killed. People went out like kids with water pistols only that getting wet might be own blood or blood of friend on you.

So i watched few times how man attacking another guy who is hiding behind some cover. Attacker is just running towards the guy behind cover and constantly shooting. Other guy behind cover just leans forward for second, gets timing right, and kills the foolish attacker.

When you have bunch of civilians with lot of weapons, some strange situations can occur. Remember i am talking about people that most of them did not know too much about war, fighting, tactics and everything else.

We did not had some smart philosophy of street fighting, especially not in the beginning. But as the time goes some of the obvious things get figured, or learned if you like.

If somebody wanted to attack someone who is inside house, most usual way was to use RPG or hand greandes on some of the opennings to shock people inside and create some shrapnel flying around.

In some other situations (quite often) guys used human shields to get to the house, lot of guys get killed because they thought it is not OK to kill some poor prisoner in order to defend house.

Imagine that three bad guys come towards you and they push two older woman in front of them. Terrible situations. After some time most shot at everything that looked suspicious… no matter what.

Most of the fighting in the city was like shoot and hide, fight while moving, like fighting with shadows, they are everywhere and each shadow can kill you. You often fight people who you do not even see good, so to walk or run lightly was key. Often you do not see enemy and shoot at whatever. Sounds bad but in lot of the situations very good thing was to shoot at anything that looks even close to suspicious, and in most of the situation not even stop later to check.

You never know how well you hit. Just grab your stuff and move. Move… move. I remember that. Always on the run.

Psychology in urban warfare

Fear was one of the greatest ally of fighting, so if one of the group wanted to kill or expel other group from some street, position or building. Usual method was to talk to them for hours over the megaphone device. Maybe from this perspective looks ridiculous but if you listen for hours or days for one and same story how you are gonna be treated good if you surrender yourself, after some time lot of folks are gonna start to belive in that.

Or in other case you may listen for an hours what that guys gonna do to your family and you if you do not surrender youself.

Hard to imagine how wrong things can be

After watching video of Syria and people in Homs some memories came back. It was good that Jay visited me for making the survival course here and ask all those questions. Some dark memories hide deep inside of me. Not easy to get to them. But this is one that came back.

My friend got caught with his comrade in one house, actually two of them are left something like behind enemy lines, in basement of destroyed house. Enemy group, some 150-200 men was doing sweep trough that street, robbing, and killing civilians who had not time to run. He said to me that they spend two days in basement, covered with all kind of junk, watching outside trough small opening, few meters from opening was a corpse of girl, maybe 10 years old.

In order to see if somebody is coming to their basement, one of them needed to be constantly on that small opening, watching. He said he managed to watch atrocities that those people did to civilians and somehow push that deep inside his brain, over the time, to put these memories away. But to stare at dead kid, all the time, with her eyes wide open, blond hair, he almost lost his mind.

One of them had a pistol and few bullets, other one had a rifle , 30 bullets and homemade grenade (made from unexploded tank grenade).

They make agrement, if they see enemy is coming to the basement, they gonna fire everything and blow themselfs with that grenade. Nobody came in basement, burned house was not interesting for other guys. After two days enemy group just pulled back.

They survived war, both of them. One of them became drug addict, lived very fast few years and died from overdose.

Other man is still my friend, he is in mid 40ies, prepared, armed, strong, skilled. He have two kids, boy and girl, teenagers. Both of them know how to shoot, how to defend themselves.

I can only write here but reality is a whole different thing. Once things turn ugly, some things can feel so wrong they can not be understood or processed with normal mind.

Actually there is no way to deal with that, sometimes with friends we can speak about these things, sometimes we laugh, other times some of my friends are quiet for days, I do not know, I have periods like that too. I think none one of us is dealing too good with that, maybe pushing it away from time to time, I have for example some periods when I am too agressive, easy to explode, rarely, but I still have it.

While this site and my course is about urban survival I hope we all never have to go through this (again). But when time comes, I’m ready and you should be too.

Violence in Syria

Those scenes feel strangely familiar.

This short documentary shows many aspects. People queuing up for the few food that is left, makeshift hospital that does not work well and the human tragedy that comes with all this.

Often street fighting was very similar. Spray and pray. What you see after 2 minutes are civilians with guns. Not aware of risks and without much of a strategy. We have been like that in beginning too. After some time you figure out what to do and what not. What people there do is so dangerous because they underestimate angle of fire from attackers. Enemies have to get out of cover just a little bit to shoot people, while they have to move several meters to get back to some sort of cover. Crazy risk indeed.

You also see crowd dynamic. Who believes those people will ever give up fight? Nobody. They will win or die. What you see in video is that crowd is exctatic for fighting, for freedom, whatever.

What you do not see in video is what is going on in background. Maybe situation is not desperate enough yet, because this one bakery shop still operated, but if situation continues like that people will turn against each other. Team spirit was gone in second month after we got cut off from supplies and that is when pillaging, raping, torturing start to become common.

I hope someone ends this situation over there. I prepare for situation like this and when you watch this, this should be reminder that things like that can happen to you too, not just in far away country. People really wanting to kill each other looks same worldwide.

Here is another video from other side of things. Filmed by Syrian Army snipers.

If you have other videos / reports about situation over there feel free to share in comments.

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The European Cold Snap

Something again about power of media and human stupidity, or i can call it human lazyness to check some simple facts.

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Right now in my region we have something like two weeks of very bad weather, snow, -15 or -20 C temperatures (getting finally better now), roads are blocked by snow, whole cities are completely cut off, infrastructure in some regions is falling apart, ambulance services can not reach patients, stores are mostly closed in worst hit cities, electrical power is off. Deaths from cold temperatures are more than 600 now.

Now this all is temporary, maybe few more days, week, and life is coming back to normal way. But still from this “small” scale event there is again some important lessons to be learned for us.

In my country political elite rule the mainstream media, i guess in every country in the world it is something like that, sometimes more obvious sometimes less. Free media barely exists. Maybe politicians in other contries have “smoother” ways to control media, but at the end all come to same.

So from the beginning of this bad weather collapse event i am following local media to confirm some things. Every single broadcast in media with some politician is same: “everything will be fine, we have enough resources to fight with this, our power plants will not have problems, we all doing our best for citizens, there is no need to panic, there is no need to panicly go in to the shops and buy candles, extra food ,water, whatever, our medical system is completely ready for this event, all patients will be take care of” etc etc.

In reality, first about medical system: few examples, our medical system works that we have supply for a few weeks, for example we are preparing for next month based on facts from the last month. So obviously if we had for months or years certain number of patients for example in emergency room (ER) we have manpower and medical storage in ER for that number of patients.

In other words we are working on assumption that everything will be fine. We are not counting that some major event can hit us, so even if we have extra manpower and extra medical supplies in ERs or hospitals, for some major event, we have that only for short period of time.

We do not have backup. Politician will say: “our medical system can cope with this event” because he need to say good news, politician who is telling bad news will not be elected next time, most of the people do not want bad news, even if it is truth.

OK, i work in medical system, so i perfectly know how bad the system is. For example, try to research how many respirator machines hospitals in your region have, after you finish that, research how many respirators will be needed if some kind of bad deseases struck your region, terrorist atack, flu, SARS..

Even if you do not research this. What you would learn would be pretty much bad news anyway.

Point is: System is not ready. And that is not worst thing. Worst thing is that system will try to convince you that “system is ready” for everything, until it is too late.

Same thing is with power plant, for example coal power plant use coal (obviously), coal is been delivered with railroad, since snow and ice is covered everything they can not deliver it to plant.

Plant by their rules have coal for something around 10 days of work without delivery of new coal, by simple math (and asking some friends who work there ) i found out that they have coal for 3-4 more days. And that’s it. Power for 400 000 people will be off, heating too, and everything that’s going along with that.

And funny, yesterday some politician shows up on TV stating that “citizenz will have electrical power no matter what happens”. We can all sleep well!?

Same goes with all stores, and everything else. When delivering of goods stops, all is going down. If you are member of my course you will have heard me talking about the signs of SHTF and what happened before all hell broke loose. Now compare this with what’s happening now.

All this is happening… in part of the world where 20 years ago we had war, so you could expect that people here know how bad things can be, but no even here people are just people, who again believe “smart” guys on TV.

Now please understand me i am writing all this as a simple example. Everything now will be fine, unless new ice age is starting.

Point of all of this is: in last week or so i did not hear from any authority, any…, advice for people that they need to buy food, candles, medicines, and everything else for month or so. Most of the people are waiting for them to tell that before they start to prepare for something. They are not going to say that. We need to prepare alone, without warnings from anyone.

Look what happens with all these disasters. Good news and if things get bad, its up to people to suffer, die or survive and politicians later play the blame game without any change.

If you have people who do not believe in preparing or think their government will look out for them, tell them this story or stories like that. It is simple logic. Nobody likes guy with bad news. I see history repeating itself and that in country that has been through major SHTF time. Most people here should know but they do not want to know. People see what they want to see, get told what they want to hear (only good news) and are blind to truth again.

Older and younger people during SHTF

Lot of questions about how older people did, or how younger cope with everything in that period.

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If we talk about older again it comes to the fact how many people they had around them, i mean did they spent that time in the group, alone, or just with spouse. And again it comes to their skills.

Older people during SHTF

It was not about “they are old and they are not strong, so we do not need them”. Not in my case. Everyone was needed. The question “how older and very young people did during SHTF?” is to wide. Easiest answer would be that they did like everybody else. Not well, life was hard.

During my trip out of the town, over that mountain, to get some stuff, one of the most important persons in the group was men in his 70ies, he was not strong, he was not powerful, he was old grumpy dude. But his value was in fact that he was something like tracker, scout and in same time guy who knows how to handle horses. In group of strong armed men without too much rules that old guy was something closest to a leader, because nobody of us had a clue about horses and about winter in the mountain.

That old man knew both things, mountain and horses, and he had value because of that.

Inside town, in my group, one of my family members was a old guy who was during 2. world war fredoom fighter. He fought against Germans and Italians, was wounded couple of times, had bunch of medals (another older guy from my group fought on Nazi side but this is another story).

Before SHTF nobody paid too much attention to his stories about terrible time during his fight in WWII, i mean we all respected him, but younger folks in my family even made jokes with him when he started with his stories, we were like ” oh s..t there he goes again how he ate leafes in the woods and fought Italians” or we always joked with him because he never wanted to watch war movies, his medals were shiny things, without some meaning for us.

His stories about hiding, hunger, killing were like fairy tales, jokes almost.

But guess what? Few years later when SHTF suddenly we started to pay attention on him, we had some questions for him, what he ate in that bad time? How he hide from enemy? Did he use some traps? How bad was it? On what way he killed enemy?

Or other example: what do you think how many young people in their 20s know something about natural remedies, herbal cures. Not too many, but some old ladies in my region know that stuff, obviously they become important. Nobody called them “superstitious old folks” like before SHTF.

I do not know are you following what i am trying to say here. But my point is that everybody had hard time in that period, young and old. Age did not matter much, only how useful a person was.

So instead of power some of the old people had enough brain and experience, knowledge to be equally important as young and strong people.
Again, of course old smart and expirienced guy, who was alone, did not have too much chance.

But being old and member of group, i do not see that as a bad thing. Knowledge and skills are the key. And i do not see strength and gun as the only important skills for some future SHTF scenario.

Children during SHTF

But just like in normal times kids are most important things, we all do everything that we need to do for our kids today. People did everything that they need to do for their kids in that time too. Everything.

Just like kids are most important thing in life of the parents in normal time, it is same in very bad time. Some usual things were pushed away sometimes, so most important thing was to keep the kids safe. I guess proper techniques of raising kids are hard to obtain when you must be ready in almost every moment to run, shoot, kill, when your first worry is to stay warm, or find food on some funny ways.

It was impossible to maintain some level of “schooling” for school age kids, i mean even if you had time to do that, you just spend it on some more important things. So basically, in most of the families, groups, houses or whatever kids were most important thing in meaning of keep them safe, but for everything else were not enough time, chance, or good will sometimes.

So obviusly those things left some traces on kids from that period. Lot of troubled young man grow up from those kids. Not to mention fact that some of the teenagers from that time learned that human life can be taken easy.

So if you had kids in that time, and you keep eye on them, covered them not only from physical danger but also from dangerous new meaning of life, those kids had some chance in future life to be normal persons, husbands, fathers, doctors whatever.

But if you protected them physically but let them watch and listen to everything that happened around them, they learned some things the wrong way too.

I know some kids from that time, they survived everything, they grow up. Most of those kids became good husbands and fathers, we can call them normal men. They do not remember too many things from that period, their parents made sure they do not witness too bad stuff.

I also know another kid from that period, he was something around 10 years old in that period, his father learned him some things in that time, to make him strong man, he sometimes showed him how people killed people. That kid grow up and become drug dealer, with many deaths on his hands.

I guess he learned in his young age that human life can be taken in order to obtain some things and carried on with that idea.