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Stories from an SHTF Christmas: An Interview with Selco

Daisy Luther
December 12th, 2017
The Organic Prepper
Comments (42)

This article was originally published by Daisy Luther at The Organic Prepper

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Have you ever thought about what an SHTF Christmas would be like after an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it event? I’m not talking about a minor issue that just affects a few people, but a full-on disaster that changes everything.

Today, we have a first-hand look at what a post-collapse holiday is really like. I interviewed my friend Selco, of SHTF School, and his answers are really food for thought. I have learned more about long-term survival from Selco than probably anybody else and have based a lot of my own plans on things I’ve learned from him. For most of us who write about preparedness, it’s research and theory. For Selco, it’s real life.

This interview is in his own words.

I read over the answers to his questions at least a dozen times and thought about how fortunate we are. Even our most difficult times here, in our society, would have been the height of luxury during the war in Bosnia.

But will we always be this lucky?

First, give us a little bit of background. What was going on? Please describe the circumstances in Bosnia during this time.

War in the Balkan region (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia…) started during the 1991 and went on until 2000 (if you include war at Kosovo and NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999), but historians mainly narrow it to a period of 1991-1995 if you do not count Kosovo war and NATO bombing. In some literature, you’ll find the name “Yugoslav Wars“ which is same (all above-mentioned Balkan countries used to be states in Federation of Yugoslavia (Jugoslavija or roughly translated to English it is “country of south Slavs“).

…Yugoslavia (as a socialistic-communist country) founded after WW2 in 1945, and stop to exist in 1991 with the start of the wars. Shortly prior the war socialistic system (communistic) fell apart as a part of bigger events (fall of Soviet Union, fall of Berlin wall…) and democracy came, together with democracy, rivalry between states that wanted to stay in the Yugoslavian union and states who wanted independence raised sharply, that resulted in riots and small and isolated fights, leading to full use of Yugoslavian army (JNA) which was 4th largest military force in Europe in that time.

Wars had all features: Independence fights, aggression between states, civil war, genocide, re-alignments, or switching of allegiances as the operational situational changed, backing up from foreign forces (Such as US and NATO)… through periods of it  you could say that it was an ethnic war or even religious in parts, but in the essence it was war for territory and resources between factions who were in power, based on personal gain of wealth and influence only.

I went as a civilian and later as a soldier through the whole period of wars, I was in different regions during that period. Harder period of those wars (because of numerous reasons) happened in Bosnia, and one of the main “feature“ of that period were “sieges“ of a couple of cities that lasted from few months to a couple of years.

Some of those sieges were complete, in terms that everything normal stop to exist in city- electricity, water, police, medical services and everything else that makes normal life, every normal service. Death from sniper or shelling was an everyday thing, but also death from gangs because law stop to exist, or death from malnutrition, lack of medicines or simply lack of proper hygiene.

I found myself in one of those sieged cities. I lived like that for a year and I survived.

Every day, for almost a year, for me was a constant fight for survival, I was constantly either trying to defend myself or to look for resources, for usable water, food or simply firewood. We scavenged through the destroyed city for usable items because everything was falling apart and we have to “reinvent“ things in order to survive, like the best way to stay warm, to stay clean and safe or simply to make home medicine for diarrhea or high blood pressure.

When Christmas rolled around, it was obviously very different than any other holiday people had ever experienced. Can you tell us the usual Christmas traditions in Bosnia BEFORE this all happened?

As said, I grew up in Yugoslavia, which was socialistic and communistic country. One of the thing in that country and system was that religion was not forbidden, but it was strongly, let’s say “advised“ that religion is way down in the list of life priorities.

On the other side, it was strongly “advised“ that we put aside our differences (we had many different ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, and a couple of main religions) in order to build one “ethnicity“ – Yugoslavian. As the result of that all different religions kinda know each other very well, and people from different religions celebrated more or less or know all religions.

Christmas for most of the folks was very much connected to the New year holiday (again something that is connected to the official socialistic system) and it was just like everywhere in the world I guess, holiday of presents and gathering of family. For example, going on midnight mass was matter of being together with family and friends, and meeting each other-not so much matter of religion not too many “real“ religious people).

I was a teenager more or less, but my memories of that holiday prior the war are: peace, good food, family gathering and presents, and of course Santa.  It was huge and “mandatory“ thing that kids gonna get big presents then.

I’m sure that then, everything was very different. What were some of the changes? How did you celebrate?

Everything was different when SHTF, yes. Living was hard, comfort was gone and everything was stripped“\ down to the bare survival. Lot of small commodities that we usually do not think about (we take it for granted) was simply gone because of obvious reasons (the whole system was out) but also because simply life becomes full of hard duties, to finish simple tasks and obtain resources becomes hard, dangerous and time-consuming.

Celebrations become rare and not so happy and big (not even near) but in the same time they become more precious and needed too.

Get-togethers (family) become even more important because people lean much more on each other between group or family, simply because they needed much more support – psychological. too – than in normal times.

A lot of religious people lost their faith when they saw family members dying. On the other side lot of people found God in that desperate times – as an only hope.

Being together with family members for small “time off“ become almost like small rituals, like a ritual of finding inner strength and support in order to push more through hard times.

Yes, religion was a big part of it, but it was not only about religion, it was about finding strength in you and people close to you – family, and sharing it between each other.

Without access to storebought presents, what kinds of gifts did people give?

It could be divided in two groups:

Things that help you in the new reality:

All kind of things that helped you to solve all kind of problems that SHTF brought. For example, people who were skilled in handcrafting used to made cigar holders out of wood and bullets casing, it was very popular for smokers and the reason for that was because cigarettes were rare, and people usually smoked bad tobacco rolled in bad paper and good cigar holder (as a combination of cigar holder and pipe) was essential for smoking that stuff.

It was small thing but really important if you were a smoker in that time.

Another example was small handmade stove. It was made from thin metal, and in some cases it was portable. Point was that kind of stove needed really small amount of wood ( fuel for fire was important and hard and dangerous to get in urban settings) to make it really red hot and cook something quickly or boil water.

So cool and usable kind of inventions.

Things that connect you to normal

In this other group were all kind of things that connect you to the normal (prior SHTF) life. It was not only cool and nice to have those presents, but also it was important psychologically to taste something that actually makes you feel normal again.

For example after living for months through collapse, one simple bottle of beer could make you feel human again, and it would somehow gave you strength.

Sweets (Candy), beer, spice, or even few songs that someone play on guitar for you were precious.

What did you do for the children at Christmas to make it special?

Kids were somewhat “forgotten“ in the SHTF times. Quite simply not many people paid attention to them other then keeping them safe from dangers.

People did not have enough time to take care about their needs.

During the holidays people usually wanted to give some kind of joy for them, or to “keep the spirit“ of holiday alive for them.

In majority of cases it was very poor imitation of holidays in normal times, for example I remember that making pancakes (jam was made out of tomato juice and very expensive sugar) was considered alone like a holiday. Special food, or attempts to make some special food, for kids, were usual holiday presents for kids in that time. Today that kind of food would look ridiculous and not even edible probably, but in that time it was precious.

What did families serve for Christmas dinner in Bosnia during this time?

Traditionally for Christmas and New Year holidays in this region here, we ate huge amounts of meat, and drink wine, so people during the collapse tried to keep that tradition.

Again it was mostly unsuccessful in terms of normal, but in that time having hot stew kind of meal from MRE was considered holiday dinner, and actually it was very very tasty and a “holiday spirit“ dinner considering what we usually ate.

Wine was out of the option most of the time but hard alcohol was there.

In general, were people happy and joyous to find a chance to celebrate, or was it grim and depressing because it was so different?

General picture looked like this: we were cold, more or less hungry, dirty, tired and unsure in future, but yes we appreciate feeling of getting together for holiday and we were trying to keep “spirit alive“.

Truth is that sometimes it worked, sometimes not.

But generally yes, psychologically it was important, it had its place, it had a sense to get together, take some time to try to feel normal again, to remember that we are still humans.

Definitely those moments were not bright and happy, like in normal times but on the other hand those moments were appreciated and were much more real than in peacetime.

Do you have any holiday stories you can share from this time? (Doesn’t matter if they are happy stories or sad – I’d really like to show the reality of post-collapse holidays.)

It is big thing (I guess just like everywhere) to leave presents under the tree for Christmas and New Year here.

It is custom here to buy big bags (kids motifs of cartoons, fairy tales and similar) and fill it with favourite snacks, sweets and toys of each kid and leave that bags under the tree (we did not had custom of socks and similar, we had those bags, to literally translate the name would be “kid package“).

Of course, it was out of the question to have the bags and sweets and toys in the middle of SHTF.

My uncle in that time came into an opportunity to make a deal with local small “warlord“ or gang leader if you like.

The deal was about giving some weapon for food (the guy had a connection with outside world) and my uncle “made a condition“ on the whole deal with the term that he will give a weapon for food but the additional deal was that he also need 3 “kids packages.”

In that time and particular moment, taking into consideration with what kind of people he was making a deal it was like he was asking a serial killer, to his face, to sing a gentle lullaby, and my uncle said that those guys simply could not believe what he asked.

Everybody was looking for or offering weapon, drugs, violent contract deals or even prostitutes from those people but he was looking for “kids packages“.

But they indulge him, and my uncle said that he thought they indulged him simply out of the fun, and out of the fact that it is gonna be a very interesting urban legend that someone could obtain kids packages in that time.

The guy even wrote down the list of sweets and toys that my uncle asked from him.

I think those sweets and toys when they came were one of the most unreal items in that time and place, but they were worth the effort.

It really gives you something to think about.

What a reality check. And how fortunate we are. Our version of “things were really tight this Christmas” is laughable in comparison to what is described above. I can’t thank Selco enough for sharing his stories with us.

I’ve often recommended prepping with things like cake mix, birthday candles, extra Christmas cards, and items that support your family traditions, and after reading what Selco had to say, I believe it’s even more important. You can’t overstate the psychological aspect of being able to provide that sense of normalcy.

More information about Selco

Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution.

In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today.

He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations like Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.

Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

Read more of Selco’s articles here: https://shtfschool.com/blog/

And take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge and advice by signing up for the outstanding and unrivaled online course. More details here: https://shtfschool.com/survival-boot-camp/

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Author: Daisy Luther
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Date: December 12th, 2017
Website: https://www.theorganicprepper.com/

Copyright Information: This content has been contributed to SHTFplan by a third-party or has been republished with permission from the author. Please contact the author directly for republishing information.

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42 Comments...

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  1. gandhi says:

    ahh the sweet smell of gonads roasting on an open rubber fire. fond memories.

    • john stiner says:

      Yes, reminds me of the good ole days of standing around the burn barrel drinking beer and eating chicharitos. Usually by midnight there would be a couple of fights and a stabbing. The night would usually end with a drunk falling in the fire.

      Good times.

  2. flower child says:

    I remember as a very young man in the 50s a poor middle class family.

    I had had a hard boiled egg, and a piece of toast for breakfast.

    Corn beef hash on a piece of toast with a slice of egg, and onion, and whatever to drink.

    We had that for a bit to eat.

    I know if things go down I can live on bolian cubes, and rice for a while.

    I can not say to much for this generation now.

    Time will tell.

    • gandhi says:

      things bad, many people trouble with no batteries… See, i too can speak Selco.

    • Nailbanger says:

      I wonder how the whole foodies will fare when the only food around is 4 year or more past the use by date canned foods or scrounged weeds that are sorta edible?

      • rellik says:

        Nail,
        I’m eating Spam that is 6 years past the “use by date” and it tastes just fine. I rotate my food stash very slowly, but I have a big stash. We found bugs in the rice, most left once we opened the pail, but the ones that stayed around taste OK. I keep Jasmin rice as a rule. I wish we could store brown rice, but it turns rancid, I may try freezing it.
        Food is food. The only weeds I eat are bananas and rice.

        • buttcrackofdoom says:

          i just ate spam 3 days ago that was expired in 2012. one thing i heard was that those easy-open cans can’t be stacked very high, because they will split open after a time. can you and kula address that issue? have you heard of it?….BTW, i just went for a can of pineapple and every pop-open can was open(12)…some were so dry they went clunk clunk as i tipped them from end to end. i don’t know if they possibly froze, or if it was pressure from bacteria getting a foothold…..always check those tops and smell, no matter how old!

  3. gandhi says:

    hmmm?. 1991? seems like selco could be better at writing english by now. something is fishy.

  4. gandhi says:

    all I want for Christmas is my two front teeff. a couple magpuls, a two stage trigger for my AR10, and lots of silver.

  5. durangokidd says:

    “On the other side, it was strongly “advised“ that we put aside our differences (we had many different ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, and a couple of main religions) in order to build one “ethnicity“ – Yugoslavian.”

    Aahhh, the basis for the Socialist New World Order: many religions, ethnic groups, cultures, and languages. IT DOESN’T WORK !!! One people must have one language and common values, which is why Muslims and Christians couldn’t co-exist in Yugoslavia. War was the result.

    It’s why Christians and Muslims cannot co-exist in Europe and why it is becoming INCREASINGLY more difficult to co-exist with Muslims in America. As Muslim numbers increase in a given area they desire to repeal the existing culture and replace it with their own wherever they go.

    70% of the NFL are black. It is the black players who are protesting. Most if not all of the protesting black players are Muslim. To be a Muslim is to be Anti-American because Islam is Sharia Law.

    Sharia Law is INCOMPATIBLE with American Constitutional Values !!! Its time to reconstitute the House Committee on Un American Activities. Patriots have a Constitutional and moral duty to defend American law, values, and cultures, from ALL enemies foreign and domestic.

    In the war that comes to America where our ideals are physically challenged by a Rogue government or conflicting civilization: “aim small, miss small” !!! 🙂

    • PO'd Patriot says:

      Good one DK.

    • Nailbanger says:

      All o them all is still only a small fraction of the population,,, me thinks they may hit a bit o pushback if they really want to push, i know personally, you push me, i will shove back so hard youll be farting dental work, im not alone, theres tons of old school folks here who are sick of this crap and are saying WTF! They can keep pushing but i guarantee it wont end how they think it will. We are not europe and the percentage of gun owners who are Elmer Fudds is getting smaller and smaller, i actually know quite a few young, conservative and quite able folks who grin and nod when they see my gadsden patch,
      III%

    • buttcrackofdoom says:

      yes, good one durango….and we DID have the crusades, because THEY were sick and tired of 400 years of muslims expanding too much. history don’t repeat, but it sure as HELL rhythms…

    • watching and waiting says:

      On point.

      That is the thesis of Globalist plan.

  6. Jim in Va. says:

    Tired of stepping back,time to stand to and deal with the crap that continues to be slung our way. Get back to reality and to hell with political correctness and safe spaces.

    • Concerned Citizen says:

      Jim: I agree but the thing is, words and speeches, etc, etc is just NOT going to be enough to make the changes that truly must be made to save what is left of these United States. I truly believe that the “Tree is in need of much watering” my fellow patriots…

    • Nailbanger says:

      Thats Trumpster,
      They are giving him hell! Thats why nobody worth a damn wants to be in politics,
      Trump is a total prick, but honestly, thats why he got elected, most of my friends chuckle at the shit thats going on, its like watching a slow motion train wreck at the circuis, the media and the left are just flailing around acting retarded, its morbidly funny and amusing, who knows whats coming but i can tell you for certain that at some point theres going to be a lot of freaked out lefties and rinos,

  7. sweet tater says:

    Christmas 1942. Woke up with an erection. Had something to play with all day.

  8. remember when says:

    poorest Christmas i remember from the 80’s was when I had just gotten divorced, too proud or too dumb to ask for help, had no car so had to carry groceries from nearest bus stop after work half mile away, and hadn’t received first paycheck. someone from school gave my child leftover tree top sawed off their tree and some branches and we stuck them together for makeshift tree, made paper chains from old paper and scotch tape, strung popcorn from old bag left in back of cupboard from better days, made cardboard star cut from side of cereal box and covered with tinfoil, cut out candy canes from paper and colored them red with crayon. Huddled around cheap woodstove in living room burning cardboard and scrap lumber and listened to carols on radio (lost tv in divorce). Was best Christmas ever because it gave us the impetus to survive for better days, its true that deprivation spurs ambition!!

  9. Philosopher Deplorabilis says:

    Interesting article and informative. Not the usual pablum that is handed out.

    I was traveling in Europe in 1997 while I was on a study abroad program. I spent a few days in Budapest, Hungary. One thing that I remember because it was so crazy, was meeting some US soldiers at a KFC. They were on R-n-R from Bosnia! I was 30ish and these kids were in their teens and 20s but I said hello and introduced myself as former military.

    I served in Germany during the Cold War so understood what it was like to be in a foreign country far from home. Not many US tourists in Hungary back at that time, either. The only Americians I met were those guys, actually. Budapest was a great place. Still have the T-shirt from the Harley Davidson store. Brought a few back as gifts, for friends. They laughed! A Harley store in Budapest, they said, no way! Yes way!

    I also remember getting certain gifts as a child. Oranges and nuts were always in our stockings. One side of my family grew up in a very cold part of the US so oranges and nuts were special. They lived in the era before shopping malls when simply driving a truck on the highway in winter was deadly. There are some songs about that, too.

    People today are spoiled. I grew up learning how to make things and we didn’t always just run off to the mall. We made our own Christmas tree ornaments, and gifts were mostly handmade. I don’t remember getting many store bought gifts as a child. Not even candy. My mother made cookies and candies from scratch.

    Amazing how times have changed.

    • Nailbanger says:

      I wish more people had that upbringing, now everything is to excess, kids are spoled, appreciate nothing, parents are detached from the process thinking keeping the kids budy in 100 different activities qualifies as parenting,
      Have a Merry Christmas!

      • buttcrackofdoom says:

        kids: we gave them EVERYthing, but asked NOTHING from them.

      • Philosopher Deplorabilis says:

        It didn’t seem that special at the time! I grew up having to do chores, just part of life. I certainly didn’t grow up spoiled. I remember stringing popcorn and real cranberries and putting that on the tree. My mother sat up many winter nights knitting or crocheting. Same for my grandmother and auntie. We always got new mittens, slippers, PJs, a hat or scarf. Those were the olden days, for me. Good memories!

        Merry Christmas to you to, NB 🙂

  10. All the people who bash Christmas and don’t want it celebrated may get their wish if SHTF. I don’t think they’ll like it.

  11. Traitor Hator says:

    I remember reading Selco saying , Their are no such thing as one shot stops. Except with a shotgun . Makes a 357 or 44 mag. Mabey a better choice then a 9?

  12. Beowulf says:

    I believe some sort of ethnic war will happen in USA by 2025. We have whites mixed with blacks, hispanics, and arab and african muslims. All the brown people have grievances against whites and the whites are waking up to the fact that we are literally under attack. Lock and load, and get your pop corn.

  13. Sean says:

    I should like to point out to the blog owners here, that their ad, from where ever, talks about “radiological, and nuclear attack”, is redundant, and stupid. Radiological IS nuclear. The US Army calls their training in this field alternately, CBR, or NBC. Chemical, Biological, Radiological, OR, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical, respectively. Get a grip. People are shook up enough about this stuff without adding a mythical fourth danger to one already there. It looks and is unprofessional.

  14. One of the kindest and wisest mentors I ever had told us, “Never put down anyone’s attempt to relate.”

    So judge not that ye not be judged.

    Selco would be welcome in my home and among my friends at any time. I admire and respect him.

    We must constantly elude the shadow of the normalcy bias or we will not survive. Ask any friend of yours in the military: everyone there is gearing up for heightened preparedness for conflict abroad.

    Get right with God every day. Difficult times are coming, and soon. Pray, prep, and repeat.

    – the Lone Ranger