The Prepper Journal

SHTF Lessons from One Year in Hell

We each have our own idea of what TEOTWAWKI would look like. For some, it is the deserted highways patrolled by maniacs in super-charged vehicles murdering anyone in their sight for fun as demonstrated in the 1981 movie, The Road Warrior. For others, our imagination might paint a world somewhat less violent overall, but lacking more in technological resources like electricity or machines powered by fuel that without refining capacity has vanished. Sort of a global reset where we all have to learn skills again but more or less still get along and farm a good bit more.

We are each limited only by our own imaginations as to what any potential SHTF world would look like and there are many visions (usually fueled by books or movies) that I draw on for inspiration when I am thinking about a life gone wrong. I say life instead of world because it could be that the rest of the world keeps on going just fine, but your own region sees this particular disaster. When everything we have come to believe and count on in our lives is taken from us, no matter the reason, we should all be able to agree that life will not be better, it will be worse. Instead of easier, it will be more difficult and there is a good chance you will see pain and death. You can’t take away civilization without losing some of the civilians can you?

Easy read for a sample of life inside a war zone.

The images we see on TV or in books is surface level entertainment now, but if our current understanding of “civilization” were to collapse, even for a period of only a couple of years, would we be ready to deal with that new reality or would the shock render you incapacitated and helpless to do anything to save yourself? We talk about prepping all of the time, but each of us is only guessing at what we will see on the other side of our imagined disaster. We don’t know what the future holds so we make our best guesses, but what if there were recent examples of the situations we fear that can teach us? Wouldn’t it make sense to listen to the lessons from people who have actually lived through the nightmares we prepare and plan for?

Learning from experience

Many of you have heard of Selco before if you have been involved in the prepping universe for any length of time and we have re-published some of his articles on the Prepper Journal. Selco is one of the rare voices in the preparedness community who has real-life experience surviving in an actual SHTF type of world. This wasn’t a weekend test without power either or someone who has simply written a book about being prepared. Selco is from the Balkan region of Southeastern Europe, and lived through the Bosnian War when it came to his neck of the woods from 1992 to 1995. If you aren’t familiar with it, you should read about the war. I also recommend a book, the Cellist of Sarajevo for a slightly fictionalized, but historically accurate depiction of the lives of 5 people living during the Siege of Sarajevo. A siege during war is about as close to SHTF as I can picture.

For his part, Selco survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, real food distribution, or any kind of organized law or government. Besides running his website; Selco produces an online course called One Year in Hell where he describes exactly what he went through and shares information in videos on how he faced various survival situations in his life and shares how he was able to survive. When it comes to people whose experience I crave to understand better and learn from, his seems the most prudent to pay attention to.

I don’t know where I first heard of him, but Mac Slavo’s website featured a compilation of Selco’s experiences and answers to questions originally on Survivalist Boards back in 2011. I recommend reading the entire article, but for those looking for the cliffs notes version, I pulled the following observations, SHTF lessons if you will, based upon Selco’s quotes about what he went through living in a war zone.

Two women run through sniper alley to avoid being shot.
Two women run across sniper alley hoping they are not shot.

Why should you prepare for bad times?

The city was surrounded for 1 year and in that city actually it was SHTF situation. We did not have organized army or police force, there was groups of defenders, actually anybody who had a gun, fight for his own house and his own family. Some of us was better prepared, but most of families had food for couple of days, some of us had pistol, few owned AK-47 when all started.

Anyway, after one month or two, gangs started with their nasty job, hospital looked like butchery, police force vanished, 80 percent of hospital staff gone home. I was lucky, my family was big in that time (15 members in one big house, 5-6 pistols, 3 Kalashnikov s) so we lived and survived, most of us.

Selco shares that almost immediately (one month or two) gangs started taking over the city and I can fully expect that to happen anywhere there is an absence of law and order. Firearms weren’t so easy to acquire after STHF, so it may make more sense (I am being courteous here) to make sure you have them before your life depends on them.

Food and Water are priorities

I remember US Air force dropped MRE every 10 days (God bless USA for that) as help for surrounded city, it just was not enough. Some of houses had little gardens with some vegetables, most did not. After three months rumors started about first deaths from starvation, deaths from low temperatures, we stripped every door , window frame from abandoned houses for heating, I burned all my own furniture for heating, lot of people died from diseases, mostly from bad water (two of my family members), we used rain water for drink, several times I ate pigeons, once I ate rat.

On the Prepper Journal, I recommend stocking up water and food before almost any other prep in certain quantities because without food and water you simply can’t live. Sure, you might get lucky and dodge bullets, or remain hidden but you have to eat to keep your strength and your health.

People cut down fallen branches to burn for heat.

Who makes the best survival group?

My group was only my family, my blood (relatives like uncles, grandmother…), in my street and in my town trips I had some close friends, but my best friends was my family. I never take stranger in my close group.

Who can you trust when so much is on the line? If you don’t have a large group now, It may be difficult or unwise to try to build one later at least from the standpoint of who you let in your own door. Family seems to be Selco’s group and he had a large family.

What are the basics you need to stock up on?

OK, Now i am very well aware how things can go very bad in very short time so I have food, hygiene, energy etc. supply for 6 months, I live in apartment with some improved security, I have house with shelter in a village some 5 miles from my apartment, in that house also supply for 6 months, that village small community, most of them are my relatives, most of them are prepared (they learned that from war), I have four kind of fire weapons with 2000 bullets for each (sorry, cannot go in details, laws are different here for rifles).

I have big garden with that house and some good knowledge about gardening and farming.

I think I have knowledge now to smell trouble, you know when everybody is saying that everything is going to be fine you somehow know that is everything going to fall apart.

Food, water, shelter and security. That plus a larger group of people to help you protect it. That has to be the first thing you focus on, those elements that will keep you alive.

For some, collecting water was an all day job that brought the real risk of death.

What are good barter items?

I don t know about other people on this forum, but I have lot of alcohol stacked now. At the beginning of war tank grenade smashed front wall of small distillery (alcohol factory) close to my house, so we took something around 500 liters of rakia (it is something like Bosnian whiskey, I guess, it made from grape, very strong) It was great stuff for trading, people used alcohol a lot, desperate times I think, we also use it for disinfection.

We have talked about Barter a few times on the Prepper Journal and I think it should always be in the back of your mind as you prepare. Ideally you would have stocked up on the essentials you need to survive, but having additional items for barter could help you in areas where you are short.

What about Sanitation?

About hygiene, cups and plates, paper or plastic, you gonna need a LOT, i know, we did not have it at all. My opinion that hygiene things is more important maybe than food, you can easily shoot pigeon, if you have grandmother she may know some eatable plants on nearest small hill (my experience) but you cannot shoot hand sanitizer.

Water purifying pills, all kind of cleaning stuff, sanitizers, lot of soap, bleach, gloves, masks, all disposable, take very good care about first aid training, learn how to treat smaller cuts, burns or even gunshot wound, there is not hospital, even if you found doctor somewhere he probably do not have any meds, or you do not have stuff to pay him.

Learn how and when to use antibiotics and have it a lot.

Believe me with good knowledge and good amount of meds you are gonna be rich.

Did you use Gold and Silver after the war started?

About gold and silver, yes, me personally gave all my gold for ammunition in that time, but it did not worth too much.

These are only a few of Selco’s quotes that I found very fascinating and they are so because this isn’t a zombie apocalypse, this really happened. For more, you can read the entire article on the site and if you are interested in even more information I suggest you purchase Selco’s course, One Year In Hell. I promise you it is interesting and very informative.

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