As some of you know I meet with some friends I have been with during that time.
I describe my experiences in detail in my course but here is how a friend Elzi spent some of his time.
He did not have choice and joined gang to fight. It was only way for him to get some resources and make it through year.
Most people joined gangs for the reason that they did not have any other way to survive, or they thought that was the easiest way to survive.
Some of them did not have food so they joined, some of them did not have weapon for protection and they joined, some of them just wanted someone to lead them.
Most of the folks I know who joined, did that because they were not prepared. Nobody expected what their life would be like.
It was trade with the devil, but trade that had to be done for many to save their families. (Gangs had power and resources, so being in gang meant having usually more food than others for example and of course weapons)
Last time I met Elzi we recorded some things (we recorded for hours, I will write more about his experience if you like).
Elzi’s struggle to survive
I joined because i did not have weapon in my house, and no food for me and my family.
Anyway i had some military experience before, never been in real battle before, but i had training, and know weapon and drill.
I joined group of 8 men, only 3 of us had weapon at the beginning. Our city was divided between many armed groups, maybe 7-8 big organized groups, with alliances and hostilities between them. Each of that big group had many smaller groups, loosely in some kind of alliance more or less. I had to go there because it was only way to feed family.
I talk now about first 5 – 6 weeks. I learned a lot later on.
We “acquired” weapon one night from smashed vehicle, i guess somebody shoot driver and passenger and car roll over. In the back there was 6 rifles, still fresh with oil and grease, i guess they were stolen from some military warehouse during the first days of chaos. In a wooden box we also find 5 mines, on sticks.
This helped us to become stronger group in our alliance and equip all our members with weapons. When we moved through city, we learned quickly in those days, adapt or die. We saw many people die.
We always changed location, every day , or night different location, we lived on move. Enemy groups want to know a bit of the territory before they strike so we did not give them chance to spy out our location. Next night we would be somewhere else. Every night. When i needed shelter, cover, place to hide or sleep i always choose second floor in a house. My group most of time stayed in no mans land. That land between enemy lines so after a night staying in one house, maybe next day we were already in enemy territory.
The front lines were not clear lines, just several rows of houses that were fighting zone. Our no mans land. At night of course we slept always with guard. Moving depended on situation. Because it was densely populated area, houses were close. Almost without space between two houses.
Lot of time we moved from house to house with plank of wood (think of something like in pirate movies to enter ships). We just placed that wood on windows of one house and on balcony or any opening on other neighboring house and walk or crawl to that other house. I became pretty skilled in that very soon. Nobody wants to be on the street in no mans land.
Place of hiding was chosen based on if it had safe exit. So actually in reality whenever i needed place to hide, i always looked for a safe and fast exit from that place. Without safe other way out of the place it was not acceptable, no matter how good looking it was.
Basements were death traps, no matter how good armed and equipped i was. Always higher floors with other exits. We placed a few traps outside, sometimes with mines and sometimes just with ropes and all kinds of junk so we had some clue when somebody was coming.
Getting captured and taken prisoner was no option. We had prisoners too and knew what to expect. Nobody is good to the people that try to kill them.
In no mans land taking prisoners was not so common. Better to end problem directly. The brutal reality caused many people to go through strong feelings of fear.
Lot of people died because of their fear. Because they run in panic or fight in panic. Often during attack there was one point when everyone panicked. When many people run away the massacre starts.
Run first or run last, do not run somewhere when everybody runs. Better to run before everyone runs. But when you run when everyone runs enemies shoot in frenzy. Stupid way to die but feelings were often stronger than smartness.
Another good thing in beginning during the fight was to stay away from bigger group during the shooting. In the panic folks just shoot at all directions and at every moving target. Adrenalin just gets you crazy.
In many situations during a fight it was better to be with one good person than with many. Safer. Quite a few people got shot accidentally by own people.
In reality what i did soon , i just choose position little bit behind my group in fight. A row of houses behind. Safe for shooting, safe for running away, first or second floor of some house or building.
Anyway people learned some things quickly. We became creative. Once we destroyed armored vehicle with lot of gas cylinders hidden in drainage ditch during the night, and next day we waited for vehicle to pass, blew everything up with one grenade.
Elzi made it through the whole year because he is street smart. While you sometimes need group to survive always acting like the herd can cost your life.
Got to make the right choices when it matters, I hope when we share experiences like this here and in course it helps you to get a bit of idea of what to expect when things get bad.
Small decisions can make big difference so every detail matters.