Konrad suggested in comment on recent blog post I write about typical day during my time in SHTF trying to survive. Usually I think about what topic to write about first and write, this time I did other way around and just wrote. So while there are lessons to learn, this is just typical day during my time in war.
I woke up with feeling that I do not have legs under my knees, only some strange feeling, something between numbness and pain.
Second feeling after that was that something wrong with my head, and definitely something wrong with my room because ceiling was pretty much black instead white. I sat up in my bed too fast, and it was mistake, I forced myself not to throw up, barely. And then everything came back to me:
There was war outside going on, for last couple of months.
My legs under the knees were numb because I slept with my boots on, not that it was something unusual, I did that whenever I felt that there is big chance to be forced to jump from the bed completely ready, but mistake was that I did not ease laces a bit before I fell asleep.
Ceiling above my head was black because we used oil lamps for months, with bits of old laces dipped in oil. It smelled bad, and leaves nasty black greasy spots on walls, clothes, probably lungs too.
And finally my head was about to explode because again I drank some homemade booze last night during the trade with folks from 6th street. I remember that after we finish deal, guy from 6th street pulls a bottle somewhere from behind the back, and we all felt little bit more comfortable because something like old custom that you are not going to share drink with the guy who you want to kill or cross. Old habits.
Guy was banging on box of tomato juice cans yelling: “this is good first class stuff, it worth a lot, healthy for kids …” like he personally handpicked the tomatoes in Italy, and then make the juice in his refinery which is in his family for centuries… In reality that case was 3rd class stuff, probably bought some 100 kilometres from there on some bargain market and then brought to the dude through weird black market channels to be traded at 50 times its worth.
I was there with T. and after we traded some alcohol and baby food for that package of tomato juice cans, he saw some piece of machinery. It looked to me like big old part of car engine, completely not useful for anything. (Want some ideas for items for trade? Join our discussion)
But T. was obsessed with making homemade grinder that he could use for all kind of stuff.
“What do you want for this?” he asked.
“Oh , you see it is perfect for…for… you see you could use that for…” guy from 6th street tried to rise the price trying to discover for what T. is planning to use that piece of junk.
“I want to use it for making the grinder” T. said again, ignoring my leg signs to be quiet and let me finish the deal.
Finally guy from 6th street put big fat trading smile on his face, with more holes than teeth in his mouth.
We all were missing teeth in that time, but somehow always surprised me when I saw it on someone else. Funny and disturbing at same time. I did not want to confront T. in front of the guys because it was not smart idea. When you trade you must look and act confident, giving the other side clear picture that you are know what you are doing.
If two of us looked like we are not agreeing, or we have something to argue, or that we are not confident, other side could get the idea that we are weak. And that could be dangerous.
So T. traded some stuff for that thing. We drink some more stuff and went home.
Now, after I woke up and sat in my bed I was trying to remember how much tomato cans he gave back for that piece of machinery but I could not remember.
It was pretty dark in the room with all junk moved on windows and I started to carefully look for rifle. I had ritual of leaving my rifle always in same position next to my bed, at the reach of my hand, loaded and ready, but not too close to me.
I remembered stories about incidents with weapon, guy who slept with his loaded rifle next to him, so after his friend storm into the room and yell at him “Wake up! They are attacking” he panicked and blew his own feet into the pieces.
Other folks would do opposite things and store weapons at “secure place” so after someone attacked them they had trouble to “unsecure” it and make it usable. There were lots of funny situations in world where whole bunch of folks trying to shoot and fight but without too much previous experience with weapon.
I get up from the bed, and search my pockets for cigarettes. Could not find single one. Then I turn my pockets out and collect tobacco dust.
I found enough for one cigarette. In corner of the room I picked some paper from newspaper and roll one fat cigar.
While rolling dust in paper I checked what was printed on that piece of paper : “…and we must all be patient and do everything… some people want to use panic…I promise you…” some political bullshit from peace time. It looked so far away now.
I went out to the yard, pulling the small pieces of crap that would make cigarette taste bad from the cigarette, carefully watching to hold it in vertical position all the time, otherwise tobacco simply would go out from the cigarette in split second.
Skinny was on the balcony, doing something like watch, but in reality daytime was peaceful time in the terms of the surprises and dangers at the front door of our yard. He was just trying to catch some sun there.
T. was sitting on the old car wheel with screwdriver in his hands while small fortune of tools were around him. Old piece of steel that he traded last night was in his hand, he was trying to attach it to complex mix of stone wood and steel that he worked on for last few weeks.
“And how much food you gave up for that piece of ****?” (pointing at the steel) Skinny asked me.
“I did not give anything, he wanted to take it, he took it, he give it leave him alone” I said, at same time thinking that he gave that food for nothing.
T. put some oil on that part and continued to work, and talk to us:
“How long already are we living like animals? 4 months? 5? How dirty are we? All that we can do is to shoot, sleep and find food to eat?
Did you even try to really DO something? I am building something here.”
Skinny completely ignored him, he made “kids binoculars” with his hands (fists) and watched plane barely visible high in the sky. In last few weeks foreign fighter jets flew high in the sky, as a part of the effort to stop civil war under them. I guess the thought they gonna somehow scare folks and armies under them to stop fight with simply showing the force.
Only mistake in whole thinking was that they forget that they deal with Balkans. We slaughtered each other here for centuries with unbelievable rage, and then lived together in big love with silenced hate. No too much sense.
Most of the folks watched those jets like they are some kind of magic or not even real.
Interesting and maybe dangerous magic, but far away and in some other dimension. Much bigger transport planes flew at night, throwing food for us, in the form of MREs (we called that “lunch packets”).
Skinny still looked at fighter jet high in the skies, and asked me “how high you think they are flying there?”
“Why you ask?” I said.
“I just ask”.
I kept looking at him suspiciously, because I remembered our neighbour who stated (OK he was completely drunk) that he had brilliant plan to end this siege. When we asked him how, he explained that he will shoot at the airplanes, and when they respond to that they will bomb whole area and everything will end.
One of most stupid things that I ever heard. It was like shooting the man who brings you sandwich when you are hungry but desperate folks will talk lot of nonsense.
“I am just thinking how funny and how far away we are to that pilot up there. He looks down and sees some buildings and smoke, some shitty place, and then 15 minutes later he is out of the whole area, going home, or wherever out of this mess. Can you imagine how cool is that to be out from here in 15 minutes?” he asked me.
“No I do not” I hated discussion like that, “what if” or “imagine if we..” or “only if…”
We were here, and thats it. I learned or trained myself to live and think only for today or only few days into the future. I learn not to hope too much.
Hope can be shitty thing when it proves to be false.
In first period we all thought like “oh this is temporary” or “someone gonna solve this” pretty soon people realize that nobody gives a damn about us, and that we are on our own.
After that realization some folks just lost touch with reality, some else use their skills, brain or imagination to survive.
T. always was doing some projects, trying to make things easier, to create tools for easier living. Usually it was useless. Skinny was dreaming all the time, about when “all this come to the end” and “what if” scenarios.
I learned to stay in present moment. Each one of us had some kind of mechanism of coping with new reality.
Later that same day guy from the neighbourhood came with info that chemical gas was used in one part of the city from some unit so we pretty soon forgot discussion about planes and everything.
And what about the project that T. Was trying to finish?
Yes he actually made it, he did made some kind of grinder, but much later. And funny thing was that few days after he finished that siege was over, so there was no need for that anymore.
Maybe he was building that grinder so slowly with purpose to keep some sense for him, I do not know.
This was how one of my days went. Lessons here are keep yourself busy and what works for others does not have to work for you. If you have also experienced survival situation head over to our Personal Survival Experience & Lessons Learned forum and share your story.
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Survivalists and preppers are (or are supposed to be) by definition something like smart folks, people who do not trust mainstream bu..s..t, who follow their own path to be winners at the end.
Actually in reality truth is different.
We all like to say that we are different but just like everyone else we fall under the influence too.
How many times you or some prepper you know built or formed opinion without even checking it? How many times you bought some item and store it just because you think it makes sense, not because you know it makes sense and you check on it. It is often easier way to believe others and you can not try everything yourself of course.
One of the most stupid things or worst mistakes that you can make in prepping is to become “mainstream”. Slap label of prepper on you and you start to think you are smarter than others. You may think that preppers and survivalists can not be mainstream because it is not logical, but yes we can.
We gonna buy bug for BOB because someone said “it is best for BOB” usually without checking who is the guy who said it. Or we gonna say “I have best gun for SHTF” because someone put huge amount of money for marketing it. If most preppers look at their storage they can find items they know theory of using it, but never used it.
The problem here is not buying these things. The problem is with forming your opinion and many survivalists think they know and they have plan but that makes them in reality less flexible to consider all options.
When SHTF and you realize quickly that you have completely wrong boots (or weapon, or BOB or whatever) you maybe still can fix it if you act. Changing way of thinking (or plan…) is harder.
There was man who before SHTF was owner of few cafes, pretty wealthy man. He was involved in some crime business and you could hear from time to time how he was involved in some fight, or he was arrested, or served some time.
Sometimes he was out of the country for months or year, rumors were that he was something like professional thief, specialised for breaking into “high class” homes, jewellery and safes and similar.
Those stories were rumors only, but in his cafe in town all guests were his crew, and going there for coffee was not forbidden, but also was not bright idea. If you entered there (probably) nobody would kick you out, but atmosphere and faces there clearly would tell you that you are outsider.
In short he was something like “tough guy” in city talks. Weapons, secret gambling, prostitution etc. Guy with his crew.
On first rumors of troubles he started to sell his cafes I guess in order to leave the area, but he was too late. When SHTF, and groups and gangs started to form, he simply gave his cafe to the leader of one group in exchange for protection.
Later when that leader and group were destroyed he found himself imprisoned for some time. Lot of people around were robbed and tortured or killed.
He immediately agree to write statement that he is “selling“ all his cafes to the leader of new group, of course in exchange for the life and freedom.
They had it anyway, but they needed that piece of paper for time after war.
After that he was something like “lone crazy dude” through the rest of the SHTF period. He was nobody.
He survived everything and after that he needed quite some time, few years to prove that he was forced to “sell” his cafes.
Court gave everything back to him. Soon after that he sold everything and emigrated somewhere, probably to place with less chance for another SHTF event.
My friend talked with him before he left the country, and after some time they touched the subject that lot of people wanted to know.
Why did he go down so easy? Why did he not resist at the beginning with his crew? Why did he not had his own strong group during SHTF? Things like that.
He had original answer: “Every time they were stronger than me, I simply had to let it go”.
His story is not so unique, but I know much more stories about how folks got killed because they refused to leave their home (and run) when under attack by several people armed with firearms, while they were unarmed, or armed with pistol or knife, clearly outnumbered.
I read every day on web sentences like “having this gun will save you when SHTF” or “with this BOB you can not lose when SHTF”. Of course this is marketing crap from people who want to sell you something.
Please do not get yourself killed, or allow your family to die when SHTF just because you put your “perfect” BOB on, your “zombie survival” rifle in your hands and went out to save the world.
Or to get killed because you “draw line and here you stand your ground” for example when they attack your home or your storage. Do you really want to die just to hold onto things?
In world of survival number of people who are gonna blindly believe in their equipment, or just blindly stay where is impossible to stay are much higher from folks who are gonna take the smartest option (however bad it could look). This is why many preppers will die. Regular folks will run but some preppers take so great pride in their plan or equipment they do not make right decisions when it matters because of their ego.
I am not the dude who is living on tree armed only with kitchen knife and big mouth. I also have BOB, BOL, equipment, weapons and plans.
But if I see that my SURVIVAL is in question I am ready to say f..k it to everything.
Sometimes to survive means not to win but to give up, and wait for next chance. Do not expect to be winner all the time.
If you are not eating right now take moment and watch this video of monkey eating gazelle.
It feels very wrong for most people to look at this. This shows how much we are out of touch with nature. Most people want to eat meat but not kill it themselves for example. What happens to gazelle is not good and not bad, its nature. It simply is.
When you find yourself in survival situation you get quickly in touch with nature again, and nature is cruel and concept of fairness does not exist.
It is hard to be prepared for that before you experience it. But understanding how nature really is and that we only live in soft bubble protected from true face of nature, is a first step.
I talk a lot in interview in my course about events that lead to total collapse. Here is one more experience I want to share.
When SHTF started, in the time when great majority of us thought that what was going on around us is something like temporary rioting that got a bit out of control, city services still worked in some parts of the city, everybody was waiting for madness to stop.
In that short period before s. hit the fan with full force, people usually lost their lives because they did not recognize situation.
People were out rioting, stealing, fighting. But all that was still like “moderate”.
At that moment people still were “inside” the system, so we all were trying to hide more or less when looting was going on in neighborhood. Police were still arresting people and trying to control things. People were shooting each other yes, but it was not yet like full scale shooting and violence, mostly people were scaring each other with shootings.
One of my friends was involved in shootings in those days, after looting some stores, he got wounded. Wound was not too dangerous, he was shot in foot.
As I said, most of the city services were still working and trying to bring order to that chaos. City ambulances came and picked him up and they rushed to hospital with him.
About one kilometer from place where he got picked up, the group of people that actually shot him stopped the ambulance on some improvised barricade, first shot the driver and then killed my friend in the back of the ambulance. They killed him little bit slower than driver, and more painfully, they used knives. We got there a bit later, too late.
Now this story may sound confusing to you, you may say “it happens in war” but for 95% of folks at that time it was not war, it was something like violent rioting, and those 95% of folks still trusted the system, had trust in police and government that they are going to restore law and order. People still trusted that ambulances are like “protected” and nobody will stop them, not to mention shoot at one.
In this story here that wounded guy and ambulance driver simply did not recognize situation. He was a nice guy, why would this happen to him? Back then I probably would go with ambulance as well if I was shot. It felt very wrong that this happened but was one of first wakeup calls that fair and unfair are concepts of the past.
My friend in the first place should not have been there in that time of chaos. Ambulance driver should have said ”screw it” take valuable medicines and go home at first signs of real violence and total collapse. He did not. It is easy to call him hero and maybe day before or hours before he helped save life of someone else but it was still too high risk to be out at this point in time.
It is easy to say that now, in those time we all still called things by old names, police, trust, government, law, system, penalty…
If that happened maybe day or two later my friend would have crawled and treated his wounds alone, or driver would have refused to drive, or…
Few days after that event s. hit the fan with real force, and nobody had illusions anymore that something temporary is going on or that things get back to normal.
But point is that lots of people died in that short period before realizing that things aren’t the same. You can not still believe in good of people around you, but most people did. This ambulance event was one of many that ended with similar deaths.
So next time, when some rioting erupts in your city, some violence after football game, or some protests because high unemployment or similar and you hear gunshots and screams, and words about people being killed on the streets, stores being looted, you need to hope that it is temporary disturbance but you can not trust in that.
Be suspicious, trust in your bug out bag, trust in your storage, trust in your weapon. Do not go out just “because everyone goes out”. Avoid being greedy and go looting to have a bit more, even if it sounds easy, you prepare to not have to go out.
When you realize how random and brutal nature and violence is, then you realize you do not prepare to be hero, you prepare to survive. That ambulance guy could have helped many more people in later months when we were fighting for survival if he would not have died. But back then, we did not understand situation.
If you experienced situation that reminded you that fairness and unfairness are just concepts in our “civilized” world, please share in comments.