Under The Bridge…



I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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After maybe 6 months of horrible violence in the city, and life without enough food, water, electricity… after months of shelling, shooting, screaming and crying and simply after months of collecting wood for fire, plugging holes in my (what’s left of) roof, I “stumbled” upon on piece of normal life.

Through some contacts of mine, I managed to meet some guys from some kind of international force.

I need to mention here, in the war time there were all kind of strangers in the city, going in and out, through smugglers routes or with rare international convoys.

Some of them were UN forces, other were mercenaries, spies, or simply folks who want to earn money in bad and weird times.

Anyway, one evening I met these guys from Spain. Three big guys with even bigger smiles on their faces. Actually they stated they are from Spain, we did not care even if they came from the moon as long as they were of some use to us…

I was with two relatives, Spanish guys knew some English language and we knew some, and we wave with our hands a lot as an addition in communication.

They wanted to know whey they can find drugs and women, just like most of the outsiders wanted, together with what they called “war souvenirs”, weapons of war and stuff, interesting to them, or I guess exotic to them, flags with blood, knives, personalized weapons etc.

They had small assault rifles that they carried under their jackets, pretty fancy for us in that time, but what caught my attention was a small portable walkman on one of the guys belt and headphones around his neck.

I asked him ‘can I take that for a second and check?’ and he said sure.

I put headphones on my ears, started the machine and when music started I just had to sit down.

It was so powerful to me in that moment that I kinda lost it, I was like drugged.

I was sitting down and listened to the whole song, while Spanish guys looked at me, I guess to them I looked like some savage who never saw a walkman before.

They could not get it…

There I was, dirty and smelly, I could feel my toes in boots are sticky because water get in, I had weird rash on my neck, hand made cigarette smell like hell… but I sat, smiling like an idiot…

Music brought me back all that I have lost in last 6 months, it brought me peace of mind for a moment, memories of normal life, cafes and girls, the beach and fun.

Somehow I forgot all that in only 6 months time, and turned myself to surviving mode only, which was not bad, but in the same time, I lost part of me.

Few days before I met Spanish guys, one of my friends gets killed, he find himself in the open during sudden shelling.

He panicked, and gets frozen behind some telegraph pole, instead of jumping behind wall of ruined house few meters from that spot.

Piece of shell gets half of his head almost with surgical precision, upper half. Scary sight.

And that morning before we met Spanish guys we were (already) making fun out of his death, I said something like “can you believe that idiot tried to take cover behind a pole, like this is a cartoon”? and we laughed like idiots and drink.

I had no emotions about his death.

After we end up with deal with Spanish guys we went home, and I felt like I am gonna cry. Because stupid death of my friend, because I want to listen music not to shoot, because I guess music reminds me on normal times and fact that I HAVE to be sorry because death of my friend, not to make fun of it.

And in the same time I was angry on myself how one song can turn me into sissy.

Later I had the same feeling when I found whole bunch of books and brought them home to burn on the fire, and took one and started to read.

Funny thing.

Point is that no matter how bad situation is, you just need to have some connection with “normal” otherwise you’ll simply turn yourself into animal.

It can be a book, it can be guitar and music, or simply chatting with friends – no matter how hard S. hit the fan.

Do not forget that you are human and you need to have and express emotions, or simply you may burn out.

Today I heard that song on the car radio, and it brings me back to those times and feelings, and I sat down and wrote this post without too much thinking.

It was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers “Under the bridge” song.

Thanks for reading.








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25 Responses

  1. It is funny how our brains are wired. A song – a smell – an image we experience can suddenly take us back in time for a few moments. Even the way you felt when that original experience was. Weird !

    Thank you for writing that Selco.

  2. Chocking management (about friend who lost half of his head for example) have in general four phases

    – Chock, occurs immediatley, might be up for a few days. It “cuts you off” from the scary stuff. This can have several kinds of different expression (laissez fair like “no big deal”, denial, or even laughing about it). It´s not about how you´re really are feeling about something bad, but all about to protect your mind from complete havoc.

    – Reaction, when you realize what´s happend. Can be for up til eight weeks with strong emotion expressions

    – Processing, when you by some methods start to really work with your issues, having new impressions and so on. This phase alone can be extended to up for a year.

    – Reorientation, when the wounds (in your mind) are about to be healed. You´re able to go further after dealing with strong emotions and thougths. This phase can be present for rest of your life.

    If you then are throwned between phase 1-2 for several months, aint strange if you´re lost in yourself about coping with new strong issues.

  3. One day I asked my Iraqi friends how they dealt with war and bombing in their city. They told me about how often stray ordinance would land in one of their neighborhoods. The sirens would already have them out in the streets, and if one of their neighbors’ houses would get hit, they would all laugh and make light of it. I asked them how they could be so uncaring. They said to me “what else are you going to do?” meaning since there’s nothing you can do to avoid the danger and destruction, you either have to deal with it or go insane. Still, seeing the looks on their faces through the gas mask I was wearing, while they had none, while we all waited for the “all clear” was not a pleasant view. These were my friends, and I could do nothing for them but try and comfort them in a very stressful moment that lasted forever.

  4. Pretty powerful opening up of your emotional state, Selco…I salute you for having the courage to admit you’re really not a Superman, but just a regular guy having to deal with extraordinary stress and duress…I just hope if SHTF I can cope as well as you did.

  5. Selco,

    your story recalled a very old memory, it happened to me more less in a same time. I was around 12, we planed to travel to Greece, what we needed to cancel due to “some hostilities” started in Yugoslavia. It is odd to to remember how sad I was simply due to a canceled journey, and didn’t know anything about the hell broke loose….

    Thanks for your work!

    All the best!

  6. Selco, I hear stories like this, making fun of the death of a friend, then you lose yourself in music.

    Can’t thank you enough for all this. I really feel like your material has not informed me as much as it has just given me a type of basic confidence that has given me a drive to survive. Before I came across your stuff i honestly didn’t even give a fuck if I lived or died, to me it was all the same.

    Whenever I talk to survivalists, I always mention this site, and tell them some of the things I’ve learned from your interviews.

    Keep it up. You are doing the universe’s work here.

    – Devlin

  7. I had put 10 days aside, to disappear into the bush and spend sometime alone, when you mentioned how listening to music affected you so, I related 100%… I had a very similar experience and actually found myself listening to entire songs playing in my head… Really strange to say the least… Thank you for the article.

  8. I agree, this was a powerful and excellent piece. A good friend used to dismiss the notion of trying to have food or anything that smacked of normal if SHTF, since we’d be in new, abnormal times, and we’d better get used to the new reality. But a person needs some kind of grounding to maintain as much sanity as possible. We can expect the conflicted emotions Selco mentioned as we adjust to said new reality.

  9. Selco, that was poignant and timely. I think a lot of preppers should think more of the phsycholgical aspect of living in a SHTF experience like you and your people did. It’s no picnic for sure. Although I prep for SHTF I sincerely hope it never happens in my lifetime. God bless for the work you do to help people face hard times.

  10. Yup, having basic items that don’t require electricity, such as an Acoustic guitar, Tape player or literature, allows us to remain grounded in who we once were. No doubt, we will need to rise to the threat and become hardened to deal with that threat head on, but we can’t loose our sanity in the midst of the threat. We have several Acoustic guitars, and plenty of paper literature teaching us how to play such an instrument (we can now, but we can always be better). When the SHTF, having paperback documentation and how-to guides will be worth gold.

  11. Thank you once again Selco for showing us that the positive side of humanity is always capable of returning and surviving.

    What I have always wanted to really know is; what is it like to be in a SHTF situation when the UN troops are there?

    What are the UN troops REALLY like?

    How to best act / behave / handle UN troops?

    I ask because I have heard both positive and very negative things about UN troops. I simply ask for the truth here.

    Thanks Again !!!

  12. I have had a really “weird” feeling for a couple of years now that things are going to get worse so I moved my family to a dead end road where there is only one way in and out. We have about 5 houses on the road and all are friends. In our back yard is miles and miles of forest that one may never get to us without a long trip. My deck overlooks several miles in all directions so I feel comfortable in my choice. I have been putting back things such as solar powered battery chargers, hand crank radios, long lasting food, weapons and starting to add solar panels for some of my running things now to see where I need to work on. I do however think my most prize possessions are the games and books I have been collecting from Goodwill stores in my area. I have collected about 50 games and over 100 books so that when this happens, my family will not be completely bored. I think these are the things that we do not think about enough because with no video games, computers, cell phones and trips to town that we are accustomed to, we will see a radical mental challenge and I want to be ready to keep my family grounded.

  13. I agree with Sebastian and Selco. 25 years after my active-duty Desert Shield/Storm (I was a non-combatant accompanying the combat ambulance) I found myself brooding for about 8 months about why others (in my household and at work) did not think as I do about SHTF. I couldn’t figure out what made me different from others. I finally decided to get a strong drunk on and journal (e.g., write a letter to myself) about what I thought and felt. That is when it hit me that I equated the worst of SHTF with my prior war experience that my civilian acquaintances and family never experienced; and even though my my wife and kids watched TV war news while I was over there. Not everything “states-side” (after a war) makes for normalcy–and most combat veterans will have some difficulties with family, even though they are sympathetic [for awhile]. My first back-home community 4th of July fireworks celebration freaked me out (especially the big explosion “boomers”). I left early; and never again went to fireworks (still 26 yrs later)–and though I loved firecrackers (bottle rockets, M-80s and cherry bombs as a kid) and bought them from friends all through my childhood/youth. Its one thing to celebrate returning troops, or victory; but there is nothing about war itself to celebrate–NOTHING (and just like there will be nothing to celebrate about surviving SHTF, though one will probably be happy to have survived with those you survived with). I felt bad for those USA fought against (especially Iraqi civilians forced at/by Iraqi-gunpoint to fight for their lives (and their family’s lives at home) on the war zone front line (that consumed a lot of USA bombs, shelling and gunfire). I saw the effect of that after visiting a Republican Guard underground hospital, quickly evacuated (I won’t say what was in there, but there was a lot of it), and also visiting some RG underground living quarters, hastily left (as USA approached) and seeing family pictures posted in various places (no different than what I would do). I also felt a glimpse of “normal” overseas when listening to a walkman song a soldier carried in the ambulance. It was a patriotic song I had never heard before (a new song, but I was overseas and hadn’t yet heard it) that seemed to speak about soldiers in that war. 24 and more years later I have gone back to re-listen to all the older USA war songs about Vietnam, etc. Having been to/in a war, there is never going to be a normal in the states for me to return to (like how I was before going to a war), except possibly among the various Veterans Organizations;and the reason is simple: War changes you (and when you survive it YOU ARE NOT THE SAME PERSON YOU ONCE WERE, whether you like it or not; and you can never achieve fitting in (with civilians and even in your own marriage-family, unless they went through it too). Now I feel sad for Selco (but not for myself), who lost another “friend” (at the pole). Now there is one less person in Selco’s life to feel the “post-war normal” with (—what might be called “THE SELCO WAR” (which was partly (at times) a war with self, a war with fear, a war with shame, a war with being at wits end, a war that now realizes, and in a sense, that one is now “damaged goods”…at least compared to how things were before the war). Selco’s war was not my war (which is why I do not feel sorry for myself), and not just because it was in a different country; but because in my war “we were taken care of by Uncle Sam (U.S. Gov’t) – who fed/watered us daily, etc.”. Selco was on his own — and his family became those who understood what he understood; and since there can only be a core-group of people who stood by Selco, every one of those core-group losses is (and became) a major loss to the rest of Selco’s life. That is just the God’s honest truth about the hell of war and afterward as a survivor. I wish I could find within myself a way to pay homage (this is some form of an “honorable act of recognition”) to those “stuck with me” or willing to be stuck with me during (one or more of) life’s worst nightmares. Selco’s way is to share and tell. I salute you!

  14. The moment in “Shawshank Redemption” movie when the sound of the opera singer fills the prison and the yard. Music can really save your sanity by reminding of the spirit the human family has in its heart.

  15. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Selco. I’m an ICU nurse and, like most people who work in critical care, I’ve developed a sense of “black humor” that most people wouldn’t understand. We spend years and years surrounded by life threatening situations, death, and dying. You’ll watch someone you’ve gotten to know very well over weeks or months die in front of you despite your best efforts to save them. Its nowhere near what one would experience in a SHTF situation, but it DOES get to you if you let it. Humor is one way of feeling a sense of control over things that are uncontrollable. And it also helps you to “distance” yourself from the situation enough that you can zip someone into a bodybag and then go on with your day. The problem in SHTF is that you don’t get any “downtime” away from survival mode. So, I think you’re right when you say that you need to MAKE some degree of downtime.

    Books, games, music, ect are ways to do this. I think being able to play a small + portable musical instrument (violin, harmonica, flute, guitar, mandolin, ect),for yourself and others, is very important. Music is how most people entertained themselves before TV and video games, and its something that is always challenging no matter how good you get as a musician. Even in situations where you have to be fairly quiet you can practice fingerings or play with a mute on. That kind of mental stimulation would be very valuable, I think. Also, people naturally value someone who can entertain them.

  16. Selco, I’m a 69 year old grandmother. I started “prepping” about 3 years ago. I stumbled over your blog somehow and have been reading ever since. This article really touched me because as I’ve prepped, I kept thinking there must be some kind of normalcy in the chaos that may come or we would go crazy. I’ve kept books and music, etc. and I order tea by the pound. lol A simple cup of hot tea seems to make life normal for me somehow. I have a son-in-law who is a retired ranger and has suffered from PTSD. He made many tours and thank God came home physically in one piece but has struggled with the memories. I believe he is better now but it has given me a view of a life I had never imagined. I thank you for everything you’ve posted. It has made me think long and hard many times and I appreciate having someone like you to share your heart as well as your knowledge. God bless you and keep you and may He broaden your audience to those who have ears to hear.

  17. Selco, I get where you’re coming from. During the 90’s, I spent 6 months in Croatia, 6 months in Bosnia and 5 months in Kosovo. I saw the hardships people had to deal with on a daily basis. Before that I had only paid lip service to prepping. Now I prep almost as if it’s going to hit the fan tomorrow.
    To provide some normalcy after it hits the fan, I’ve included a number of things in my preps. Almost 200 movies on disc, several decks of playing cards, numerous board games and several hundred books. Many of the movies and books are for children.

  18. Faith has not been mentioned here. This will be our most important asset in difficult times. HE Himself has said it.

    Jesus speaks: (6/5/99 in Ohio)

    “My brothers and sisters, with determination come into My Heart of Divine Love. It is here I await you as King of the New Jerusalem. Follow the path that My Mother has given you. Believe and you will receive the grace to come after Me.”

    “I am here, your Jesus, born Incarnate… I tell you the truth, the times that lie ahead will be most difficult for those who have not surrendered and do not trust in Me. It is such as these that trust only in themselves and in the world around them.”

    “I have told you, with God there are no half measures. My Mother has told you “not to choose” is to choose. Therefore, I state once more: America, wake up! Surrender to your Jesus of Mercy! Time is not on the side of the lukewarm heart. Choose Me. Love Me. Trust Me. The only other choice is My Justice.”


  19. Normalcy, what’s that. I mean Selco if I took you out of your environment and brought you to mine, You would think were all Crazy ,Wacky, Goofy,Loony,Kooky, sick in the head nuts! I forget where your’e from but Eastern Europe….Close enough?
    Do you even know what a Red Neck is? let alone a Hillbilly” evan worse” We come from almost anyplace except cities. The USA is full of them, but I know there are some in Russia too. Hank J.R. said it best in an old song “A Country Boy Can Survive” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cQNkIrg-Tk . Recently there a new kind of Redneck/Hillbilly that my sons made me aware of. Do you know what a GENERATOR PARTY” is? Well I didn’t till they borrowed my generator and my wife and I went down to the lake to check it out.Kind of looks like this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ve8sNTqrzCw Loud music out in the woods. And then there’s this… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfF3lMnjkgc See we find the damnest things to entertain ourselves. So you give us so much Selco, I thought you might like some entertainment from one of your readers. Hey man,enjoy.

  20. Decades of dealing professionally and extensively with combat vets teaches things that cannot be verbally described – except to the ones that actually lived it. And they understand it in a way even those providing “treatment” still could never understand. Oh, it’s possible to have heard so many stories that one knows almost exactly what comes next in the way of emotions, reactions, etc., but that’s not the same as truly understanding it. NO one understands who hasn’t “been there, experienced that.” Perhaps one client said it best one day, trying to describe it out loud more for his own benefit than mine: “You know, it’s kind of like when you go over there, you have to turn off all the feeling switches (holds out one hand, fingers extended, and uses the other hand to one by one, fold those fingers down, as if turning off switches). Then when you come back home, you try to turn on the feeling switches again, and it doesn’t work (reversing the actions with each of those folded-down fingers to straighten them back out again all at once – and pausing, then folding them all back down again to the “off” position).” It is never the same, as so many above have said.

    Perhaps – being very careful not to presume to speak for Selco or anyone else who’s “been there” – the message is that in and after a SHTF situation, one may almost step back as if watching him/herself at a bit of a distance, almost in amazement at what s/he is doing that would ordinarily seem strange, inappropriate, even crazy. But in SHTF, one cannot (or at least should not) judge self or others according to what “normally” is considered strange, inappropriate, or even crazy. The rules in SHTF do not equate to anything learned in a “normal” world. And, frankly, almost anything that can be done for oneself that soothes, numbs, protects, or otherwise helps cope, is OK – regardless of what anyone outside the situation might think. They have no legitimate way of judging.

    Bottom line: take care of yourself and those around you, without applying “normal” behavioral or emotional “rules.” I suspect most who’ve been there understand this, and virtually all that haven’t simply cannot understand. That’s not a fault, it’s just the way it is, because certain “out of bounds” experiences provide certain learning and understanding that simply cannot be gotten any other way, no matter how many people one talks to, or how many books or articles one reads on the subject – even first hand accounts. BUT – one can at least learn as much about it as possible, from those that know, so as to be better prepared if/when it comes home like a bomb. It will never be the same again, no matter how well one “copes.”

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