Saturday, April 20, 2024

Saturday Snippet: A survivor's story about a modern crisis


We've mentioned Selco Begovic in these pages several times.  He lived through the Bosnian war from 1992-1995, and has written three books incorporating his and others' stories from that war, plus lessons learned that we can apply in other emergency situations.  He's one of the few writers in that field who's "been there and done that", and speaks with the authority of hard-won experience.

This morning's snippet is from his book "SHTF Survival Stories:  Memories from the Balkan War".  I highly recommend it, and Selco's other books as well.

The blurb reads:

There are many books out there on all the different aspects of preparedness and survival that can provide you with information, checklists, and theoretical solutions to potential problems. But no matter how much you read or how well-researched the books you choose are, there’s only so much you can take away from these tomes. Getting your information from someone who has survived a "sh*t hit the fan" crisis will take your preparedness to an entirely different level. Meet Selco, a legend in the preparedness world. He survived in a city that was under siege for more than a year. He had no power, no running water, no stores for supplies, and every day, he ran the risk of meeting a violent death, whether by shells, sniper fire, or a person intent on hurting others. This book is a collection of memories from the darkest days of the Balkan War, where each moment could have been his last. This isn’t a cheerful and uplifting guide to survival. There’s no misplaced optimism. There’s only Selco, the darkness he faced, and the grim reality of an SHTF scenario most of us can’t even fathom. But if you can grasp it all before it happens, you’ll be much further ahead than those who are frozen in shock. Please note that Selco's first language is not English. These stories have been lightly edited for clarity, but they still retain the "accent."

As the blurb says, this isn't light, easy reading at all:  but it's very accurate in describing how civilization can (and does) go to hell in a handbasket when things go very wrong.  I've experienced that in three nations in Africa, and therefore I can verify what Selco says from my own experience.  The misery war brings is pretty much the same all over the world, no matter where it takes place or in what language its stories are told.

I've chosen just one of the stories Selco tells in this book.  This is "Laura's Story".  WARNING:  This discusses brutal violence, rape, and a number of other very dark topics.  If any of those subjects offend or upset you, you should not read further.

“Laura” was 42 years old at the time of the event, a clerk at the local bank, two kids in school, and her husband was a driver for the city bus services.

She is now 64 and the house where we are having this conversation is small and wet. On the floor there are several pots, probably used for catching rain from roof leaks. She looks like she is sick, smoking homemade cigarettes. The smell is awful.

She looks like she has given up, like she is going to kill herself right after our conversation.

She told me her story of the war.

Do you remember the period of hyperinflation when you could buy with credit and when that check came to payment it would be worth maybe 10% of the original value, some few months before killing and chaos started?

Inflation was like a toy for some folks.

Now when I remember that I feel like an idiot because I did not realize that everything was going to shit when something like that is possible.

Women from bank, my colleagues, were bragging how they bought extra stuff that way with almost no money, I was proud because I did not do that.

You know, my father was one of the first who organized an uprising against the Germans here in the big war, a real Communist. He even went as a volunteer in Spanish civil war there, fought against Franco.

He told me a story that once he met Marshall Tito in war, at some Communist conference. It was deep in the Bosnian woods in the winter of 1943, while they were encircled by Italians and Germans.

He told me that he was not like a man, he was an idea, he was the state. The movement that you just need to follow because he knows best.

I was raised to believe in the state, in the communist system, in the ideals of the state for workers and peasants.

When the war started in Croatia, I, just like most of us, believed that somehow someone will recognize that we are all same people, Socialists and Communists, and that we just needed to stick together, and everything would be fine.

But I did not know that the Western world did not want us to have Yugoslavia. We were simply too strong for them. They wanted us to hate each other, and to pull out that old hatred between Yugoslav nations.

And then one day my husband came home earlier from work. He looked badly shaken.

He told me that his coworker was absent from work for two weeks, officially he was ill, with pneumonia.

Rumors were that he was volunteering as a fighter in Croatia. Some people believed and some did not believe.

But when he came back to work, he had golden necklaces around his neck, golden rings, and big smile on his face.

Some folks said that he was bragging around that there in Croatia if you are willing to fight there were a lot of things to plunder, money and gold, and he whispered with sick smile that if you have the will and if you wanted there were lot of “available“ women, too.

Husband said that guy was always bit weird when it came to women and alcohol, but after he returned from that “weekend fighting“ for money, he always had a sick smile on his face, like he had seen that you can get money, gold, and women in much easier ways than standing all day long in a decades-old bus and selling tickets to angry workers and confused school kids.

My husband never was a brave man. He was good man, but he liked to pull back from situations where people used fists or knives.

You could say that he was coward in some way.

After few stories he heard from that colleague, the fear installed in him for real and forever. Anyway, that forever did not last too long.

S*** moved from Croatia to our town pretty soon. One morning I realized that my coworkers who were other nationalities were missing from work.

And I realized too, that their workplaces were empty more or less. While I was talking about how we should stick together in the spirit of socialism, they were organizing how to get the hell out of town.

I still believed in life together between people of different nationalities.

And then one morning my husband came earlier from his job. He told me that people in uniforms came and confiscated the buses in the name of the “Cause” and the state. Nobody said what cause or state, but he saw that they had blood in their eyes, and nobody was willing to ask too many questions.

They told the workers that they need to go home and follow the orders of the local “crisis government.”

In that time there were already several of those crisis governments, each with their own agendas, militias, and orders. People still tried to understand which of those government represented the state.

What they did not understand was that the state was already gone. There were wars between those people too.

My husband finally beat his fear and went to the local criminals to buy a rifle. He gave almost half the money that we had saved for new car for that thing.

When he came home with the rifle, he was even more afraid.

He did not talk too much, but I understood that he was more afraid to use that rifle than to be without it.

He was a weak man. He could not help it.

Somewhere around that day when he bought the rifle, we sent our kids to my sister, some 200 km from our place.

It was the first and probably last time when my husband’s fear was used to make a good decision. I did not want to be separated from my kids, but he just kept on telling me, “Laura, you do not know what is happening, and what are people saying outside. The kids need to go away from here.”

They left town in one of the last of the Red Cross organized convoys. Their small faces were confused behind the glass. While I was waving them at the local market where the transport was organized, my husband was in our backyard trying to kill beer bottles with bullets from his rifle.

Our neighbor was trying to teach him how to operate the rifle. Rumors in town were that this neighbor had some violent history. Some even said that he was in the French Foreign Legion.

My husband was a cook during the basic training in army, and he forgot even the basic stuff that he learned in the army.

After we got word from the Red Cross that our kids got to their destination in good order, we were kind of more relaxed, but silence moved into the house.

For days we listened to the radio on our car battery. Electricity, water, and all other services were gone. We still were trying to figure who was fighting, who was defending who was liberating, and who was representing the law in our city.

And then one night we awakened to strong kicks at the door.

“Police!” they shouted. “Open the door, now!”

My husband shouted at me, “Where is the rifle?”

I did not know of course, and I still believe that he simply forgot where he put it. He was completely lost in fear.

Anyway, he opened the door. They told him that they were newly organized police and that they trying to organize law in the city.

Of course, he believed them.

They had uniforms, helmets, weapon, and authority. He simply was that kind of man. He wanted to trust.

He even remembered where he left his rifle when they asked him. And then they told him that he needed to go with them to the police station and fill out some simple paperwork because that rifle, nothing more.

I never saw him again.

I still remember how he was very calmly putting his jacket on while he was having a conversation with those guys. He had trust on his face. He was happy there was someone finally who he could trust, who would tell him what to do.

What else does a law-abiding citizen need? F***!

I never saw him again.

But I saw those people again the very next night.

They did not knock or yell this time. One of them simply crushed the doorknob with his boot.

When they entered house one of them punched me in the face right away, and he said to me just one word. “Gold?”

He kicked me with his boot few more times before the meaning of that word finally got through my brain and then he kicked me few more times before I caught my breath and strength to tell him where my gold necklaces and rings were.

You are asking me did they do anything more to me? You mean did they rape me?

Yeah, they did. Two of them raped me while the two other guys were collecting interesting stuff in my house.

I still do not remember if the other two guys raped me, or if they did not.

After the second one somehow, I kinda left my body. It was like I was floating next to the ceiling while he was on me.

I remember the words “Let’s just kill this bitch.”

Much later I realized that those words were spoken about me.

Did I want to be killed after that?

No, actually not. In that moment I felt only physical pain, but I still had the will to live. I did not want to die. Not yet.

I survived that, just like hundreds of other women in that time.

I do not remember how I lived the next month or two.

I mean I remember everything in a way: black market, famine, diseases, endless killings, side switching, rumors about peace and everything else.

But from the moment when those guys left my house, everything was blurred. I simply pushed on and on.

I learned how to treat wounded in one of the local militias, I found a man who protected me, not because he loved me or because he was a good man. It was because I was a woman.

I remember endless wounded guys screaming and in pain.

And then one day peace came, I was hearing from all sides that peace has come, and finally everything was gonna be fine.

And that was moment when I broke.

I was an old woman. My husband was dead, but actually officially he was still missing. I could not even get a pension from state because officially he was not dead. He was not founded in one of the thousand improvised graves.

He was probably killed immediately after he was taken from our house, maybe 500 meters from our house. Turned to dust or just pile of bones somewhere in someone abandoned well, or on the bottom of the river.

Where are my kids?

One is in America. She is some kind of small boss in a local fast food restaurant. Whenever I speak to her on phone, I understand her less. Each time she uses more English then our language, and each time I am happier.


I want from her to forget this country, this language. I want from her to forget me, to never come back here, I do not want her to be one day outside her body while some guy is on top of her and another searching her home for gold in the name of state.

My other kid?

Well, he is some kind of musician. Lives in Italy. I think he is homosexual.

What are my feelings about that?

I do not care, as long as he does not come back here. I do not want him to be taken from the house in the middle of the night in the name of the cause, in some future “Balkan conflict.”

Sometimes I have a dream that he might be on the other side in some future war here. What if he was one of the guys who searched for gold and valuables after he killed a woman’s husband?

And next morning when I wake from that dream, I even more want from him to hate everything that is here, country people, system, even me.

Just as long as he does not come back.

What do I do for living?

I do what I learned in that time. I care for sick folks. I have a few older people that I take care of. I wash them, clean them, take care for this disease, and similar.

It is enough for cigarettes and beer and that food that I eat.

I’ll be fine.

Do I trust in living together with harmony between different people?

Hmmm, I do not care for that. I do not give a s***.

Well, there you have it.  A family who had never prepared for the complete collapse of the society in which they lived . . . and paid the price for it.  If you think that can't happen anywhere else, even in America, you're deluded.  I've seen it happen elsewhere, and experienced for myself the consequences.  In some of our inner cities today, conditions very like those Laura describes are a daily fact of life.  I'm not joking.  They really are.

Read, and learn . . . and ask yourself:  "If this happened to my family, tomorrow, how well are we equipped and trained to survive it?"



Bob said...

" If any of those subjects offend or upset you, you should not read further." BS! If that sort of thing upsets you, you need to toughen up - A LOT - and fast. Bad times are just around the corner.

tkdkerry said...

Linked on FB and X. People need to see this, they have no clue.

HMS Defiant said...

I think people are waiting for the collapse, when the police won't come and the trouble will resolve itself quietly in the nighttime. I think it's going to look a lot like ethnic cleansing.

Eaton Rapids Joe said...

Thank-you for posting.

The three-way, civil strife in Bosnia is probably the closest thing we have to a road-map to where we may end up.

Prepare to suffer. Try to avoid the landmines but know that you will not miss every one.

Old NFO said...

All truth there. Not sugarcoated for public consumption, and I'm glad somebody is finally telling the 'rest of the story'.

JNorth said...

On the plus side, we are no where near in inflation rate she was mentioning. Not saying it isn't going to get there (good chance it is, but maybe not), but you still have time to prepare.

Anonymous said...

"Viele Hunde sind des Hasen Tod."

Many dogs are the death of the hare.

I recently watched two hounds chase a young black bear to exhaustion (in case you're not a fuzzy bunny.)


Bear Claw Chris Lapp said...

We really have no idea,,,,yet

Anonymous said...

“ we are no where near in inflation rate she was mentioning”

Just as people go broke gradually then suddenly, so goes inflation. It bumps along quietly until some crisis, real or manufactured, occurs. Then it goes to shit. Read any description of Weimar Germany. Understand what that woman was telling.

A good guage of inflation is fast food meal, doesn’t matter which one, your choice. A meal pre Covid ( a pox on their souls) might have been well under ten bucks. Today, it’s closer to at at least 20 bucks. So much for the small pleasures in life that will disappear in the future.

Listen to what