Lessons learned from living in a war zone

Ferfal, who blogs at ‘Surviving In Argentina‘ about his experiences in that country during its slow, unsteady collapse, has posted three articles (so far) about the experiences of people in the rebel-held regions of Ukraine:  how the war has changed their lives, what they experienced, and what it’s like living in a collapsed, anarchic society.  You’ll find them at these links:

They’re a graphic illustration of how the structures of society on which we depend can go to hell in a handbasket almost overnight, if the right combination of circumstances comes along.  Here’s a brief excerpt from the first article in the series.

Gloomy people are very cautiously buying groceries. And gloomy clerks are sympathetically measuring out 50 grams [about 1¾ ounces] of cheese or liverwurst, packing two or three cracked eggs into a plastic bag (they are cheaper and so in great demand), or weighing out a single frozen chicken wing.

FerFAL Comment: Just read that paragraph again whenever you wonder if you have enough food stored (and don’t forget water!)

But they categorically refuse to accept change. Change has become the subject of fierce arguments. A cashier in one downtown grocery angrily said they have several hundred thousand hryvnyas’ worth of change down in their basement and they can’t get rid of it.

The same is true of the 100-hryvnya notes with the little portrait of Taras Shevchenko that were given to many pensioners on the eve of the “elections” in the “Luhansk People’s Republic.” They, it is said, are no longer valid, banks don’t take them. And so stores and traders don’t either. Retirees are unhappy, upset. They swear a lot, but they don’t threaten to file a complaint. There is no one and nowhere to complain to. They just wonder, “what banks?” Not a single bank in Luhansk is open for business. Recently the last Sberbank offices shut their doors. There are long lines at the bank machines despite the cold.

FerFAL Comment: And while cash is king (and lines form at ATMs “bank machines”), all fiat currencies have their limits. The lesson here is have enough cash, have enough cash in more stable currencies such as dollars and Euros, better yet, have most of them in an offshore account and then for worst case scenarios have real money, gold and silver.

Now lines are forming at Internet providers. At the end of November, Triolan completely unexpectedly and without warning stopped providing free Internet services. So now hundreds of people are standing in line to get reconnected. There is great demand and few technicians. The infrastructure is damaged and express connections are going for 150 hyrvnyas ($9.60), which not everyone can afford. So, for many, even the Internet has become a temporarily inaccessible luxury. A window on the world has closed, one that enabled people to watch Ukrainian television. In Luhansk, they only broadcast Russian, Crimean, and Belarussian television. A door has closed to a world in which heroes are called heroes, terrorists are called terrorists, mercenaries are called mercenaries, and occupiers are called occupiers. And the latter are not portrayed as angels with shining halos.

That’s why there are more people than usual in the Internet cafes (8 hryvnyas per hour).

FerFAL Comment: Have your own communications. A small “world radio” can open again that closed window mentioned above. Also, expect propaganda and censorship. War or economic collapse, expect lots of censorship.

There’s much more at the three links provided.  Thought-provoking reading.

I’m not predicting such conditions in the USA, of course.  We aren’t fighting a civil war here, and aren’t likely to do so anytime soon (at least, one devoutly hopes so).  Nevertheless, all sorts of unrest can erupt with little or no warning, and it can have devastating local effects.  Just look at local economies in Ferguson, Missouri or Baltimore, Maryland after recent riots and urban unrest.  Look at the number of local businesses that have shut down, the upsurge in crime, and the collapse of business and property values in certain areas.  In combination, those factors have had an economic effect on some areas that’s not dissimilar to the Ukraine’s civil war, albeit less violent and bloody.

I can also confirm from my own experience in Africa that war, particularly civil war, can and does have the effects described by FerFal’s correspondents.  They speak the literal truth about the collapse of support structures, the difficulty in obtaining food, fuel and transport, and the problems of trying to live from day to day among new, often self-appointed authorities who are using their positions of power (and the power that comes from the barrel of a gun) to feather their own nests and look after their own families . . . at the expense of everyone else.


1 comment

  1. Especially government or self appointed 'warlords' who appropriate food / water supplies for themselves. Scary indeed.

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