SELCO: The COVID Pandemic in the Balkans Was a Reminder of Survival Mode

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Author of The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival and the online course SHTF Survival Boot Camp

Watching how the pandemic stuff worked here around me in the Balkan countries was something like re-learning about prepping, and actually it was good class (unless you were sick, got fired or similar).

Rough times from the pandemic here are pretty much gone, at least that peak of it, so some things can be summarized. Other things, like unemployment, surged as a result of everything and is still on the rise, so that catastrophe is still building, not to mention expectations of a second wave.

There might be similarities with the situation wherever you are, but some things are different here, mostly because of the history of this region in the last 25-30 years. People here have experienced civil wars, sieges, UN sanctions, the fall of systems, curfews, martial laws, mass executions, life without electricity or running water, bombardments… so the whole coronavirus stuff is not like a joke here, but people more easily go into that “survival mode” or easily adapt to hard things than elsewhere.

The pandemic, and rumors about the pandemic

You know that feeling when some strange epidemics happened always in the same region of the world, and you hear or read about it somewhere, and kind of forget about it (because those things happen always somewhere else in some far part of the world)?

Yes, it was like that

There was a new disease somewhere far away, and nobody gave sh*t about it. It started there and it will end up there.

Only it spread so fast everywhere.

Note: it can happen anywhere

I think the first real feeling of possible danger was the virus being discovered in Italy (which is close by the way). At the time the first cases showed up here, people were still reluctant to use masks publicly. It was something like they were shy to admit that they took the threat seriously because the general feeling was it was nothing, at least most people said so.

There is something in the human mentality that they never believe it can happen to them, even here where people have experienced a lot of things. So when the first real cases showed up in the cities there was a sudden shift from the “Nah, it is nothing” to the “Sh*t, this is real”, and of course both reactions were on the far ends of the spectrum. Both reactions were “overreactions” but that is human too.

Note: It is hard to believe in things that you have not experienced before.

Then the panic

The first cases of the virus brought panic in the shops, so you could see big malls crowded with people, which was funny because people actually did what they feared most. They gathered together in big shops to get food, hygiene stuff, and all else. So in the same time, it was run for resources and try not to be in a big crowd. The results of that were ridiculous because folks tried to do it fast, and it was impossible to do it fast because of too large a demand.

Note: Always be a few steps ahead, it sucks to realize something when the majority of folks realize it, You need to realize it before them.

Some stuff started to be hard to find after a few days, things like flour and particular kinds of food.

The information was out that there was enough food in storage, just that there was not enough particular items on shelves because of the sudden huge demand. But, of course, nobody listened too much. Actually, most of the folks took it as false news for keeping people calm, which resulted exactly in the opposite – an even bigger run for some items.

Hand sanitizer, face masks, medical alcohol, alcohol pads, and similar items were impossible to find after a couple of days. Well, actually, it was possible to find it on the black market, at prices 10 times more expensive, sometimes even more.

Soon people realized that, for example, you can make alcohol for disinfection from industrial alcohol, by diluting it, and that kind of industrial alcohol is dirt cheap. Then prices for that went sharply up in few days.

Note: Adapt. (Related article)

When most of the businesses were closed, and after a night-time curfew started, the streets were empty and folks were scared. It started to bring the whole thing to a new dimension, of course with the help of media news bombardment about how the virus spread, what is dangerous, how many people could die, and whatnot.

So, in reality, maybe ten days after the “Nah, it is nothing” stage, a lot of folks brought themselves to the point of if someone sneezed 100 meters away they would run.

Everybody was full of info about what exactly virus was about, and actually nobody knew nothing for sure.

Note: When there is no real information, some information has to fill the vacuum – even if it’s false.

The medical system

Well, it was different here from region to region, but one thing common to all was the fact that nobody was properly ready for it.
Medical systems here are already “limping” for decades, so a situation like a new pandemic easily pushed it to an almost complete halt.

Actually, a few days after the first cases showed up here, it already was clear that the basic medical supply needed for the pandemic is short: masks, protective suits, disinfectant…and all of that was missing in hospital settings by 10 days after the start.

It was not completely gone but was very limited, especially in terms of quality. So for example, to work with patients highly suspected to have COVID, as a medical personnel, you needed to use one or two pairs of disposable gloves for the whole shift, a face mask that is clearly not meant for that kind of patient, and “wash” disposable equipment and similar.

Medical workers worked without strict days off schedule.

The situation here was not even close to being like in some other European countries when it comes to numbers, luckily. But it was for sure clear that many other patients missed care for their illnesses because everything kinda “shrank” because of Covid patients. So for example, if you were a person with chronic heart disease, you had a much bigger chance of dying in this period because of a lack of care. The medical system “diverted” or “closed” because of the expectation of COVID patients and the restrictions around that.

Note: Know your health situation, and prepare to cope with it on your own for some time

The politics

Everything is about politics and influence here. Probably everywhere is similar.

The whole COVID thing was used both on a “larger” and “smaller” scale.

On the larger scale or map, a different kind of “help” was coming from the world to this region, because as I mentioned, the medical systems are a bit “trashed” here. That help was used to install some influences here from many sides, so you could see here a plane landing with help from one country, being welcomed from the whole set of local politicians, publicly announced, praised, played on TV, and the same help, or even larger help, from some other country, being ignored. All combinations were in place, because a hard situation or big fear from a possible hard situation is a very good opportunity to influence folks.

The power of the media played really nicely with it.

On local levels it was clear how fear and panic influenced folks on the ground in terms of sociology.

For example there were cases of locking down areas without any real reason, just because of fear, or examples of almost mutinies from some cities (toward central governments) in the name of health.

Luckily the situation here lasted a pretty short time, and it was not nearly bad as expected. If it had lasted longer, then a situation like “everybody for himself” in terms of regions and cities would have happened.

Note: Eventually, it always comes down to your own survival circle, your group, or family

All of the above in this article is written in the past tense. It happened, it ended, but actually, nobody knows what comes next, in terms of a possible second wave. But this is especially true in terms of the horrible economic situation after all of this, which is gonna be much worse than any disease, so no, in truth, it did not actually end yet.



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 as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months. Read more of Selco's articles here. Buy his PDF books here. Take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge by signing up for his unrivaled online course. Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

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  • Up here in Alaska, the reaction was far worse than the affliction as well. We had a run on toilet paper, then rice and beans, then meat. Meanwhile, our fuel costs bottomed out. Once we got replenished on those items that got cleaned off the store shelves, I started buying them in quantity; not because I needed them, for I already had my stockpile up well before the bug hit. I bought up surplus so when the next incident comes along I will have stuff to sell/trade/give to friends and family etc. The big surprise came from our infrastructure. It wasn’t the increase in bureaucracy, nor the expected delays in restock that got me worried. It was the mass waste of perfectly good food (potatoes, livestock, milk and eggs) that I am still trying to understand. We had transportation still, but schools and restaurants were shut down, and the food that supports those systems could not be redistributed quickly enough, nor could the processing centers keep production going as the infection swept through those facilities and shut them down. The real concern is, did those who control those systems realize what went wrong and are coming up with alternative plans to put those perishable supplies to use when normal consumer avenues are closed?

    • I think that the farming business and the food supply industry really, really need to make contingency plans for how to supply the public the next time there is a disruption in the food chain to individual persons.

      • One very practical thing the government can do to redirect the use of perfectly good food is to give companies a tax break for selling/donating to food banks at greatly reduced rates. Then nothing is wasted and people are fed.

        Cut out the middle man in emergencies and things will go a lot smoother in a more humanitarian way. Of all the asinine things that have happened with this pandemic, hearing of food being dumped and wasted made me the angriest. I would even support the idea of a government worker being able to coordinate such deals.

        Like Selco has often repeated, it can happen anywhere, anytime. The ridiculous is right up there close to #1.

  • It is helpful to read info from a person who has ” Been There and Done That” like Selco, instead of some so called “Prepper Experts” hiding out in their ranch in Idaho ( Survival Blog) or their tiny little cabins in New Hampshire ( Modern Survival Blog) . Yuck!

    This is why I read this site daily, because it always has food for thought , instead of boring the reader how the Author’s Wife planted potatoes, or he dehydrated onions.

    • @ Seminole Wind

      I think it’s a good thing that there are several good sites online devoted to the idea of preparedness. I personally like both SurvivalBlog and Modern Survival Blog and find them helpful. I especially enjoy the community of readers on SurvivalBlog. I like this site as well. To each their own.

  • It is always interesting to see this perspective of how another country reacts to a crises.
    It never fails to amaze me, how different we react , even in our own country.

    Some states went on full lock down and a few are still on restrictions. Some of us are pretty well back to normal. Except for wearing masks in the businesses that still require that and social distancing in restaurants and such.

    I think the big difference is in how we in the US, tend to pull together to help one another. No matter what the crises is.
    This is very different from the “every man for himself” attitude that is prevalent in the rest of the world. If we look at natural disasters, here we see a lot of aid pouring in and locals working together to get things back to normal. Overseas we see a lot of them waiting for a governmental response and outside aid to pour in. Even then they do not tend to work together to improve their circumstances.

    I think this is one of the biggest things that we as preppers tend to overlook and even discount.
    Which is a problem in our planning. We focus on an “every man for himself” situation to occur. But based upon past experience, it probably will not be that way in the US or not as much as we tend to expect.
    People may be more self absorbed in a SHTF scenario, but the basic nature of helping others can not be discounted entirely. People don’t generally change that much from what their basic instincts are.
    Something to Ponder, as you are watching this pandemic unfold.

  • “Note: it can happen anywhere”
    Yes it can. That seems basic to prepping.

    “Note: It is hard to believe in things that you have not experienced before”
    I’m living proof that things that don’t normally happen to the average person can, indeed, happen to you.

    “Note: Always be a few steps ahead, it sucks to realize something when the majority of folks realize it, You need to realize it before them.”
    I thought hard for 3 hours after reading Daisy’s landmark article in late January. Then I went shopping and didn’t stop until a few days before the panic buying hit here in the US. I’m very glad that I bet on my instincts.

    “Note: When there is no real information, some information has to fill the vacuum – even if it’s false.”
    Yes, seen a lot of that and its still happening.

    “Note: Know your health situation, and prepare to cope with it on your own for some time”
    Yes, been stockpiling my meds, where possible, for a long time.

    “Note: Eventually, it always comes down to your own survival circle, your group, or family”
    While there have been and continue to be disruptions in the food supply chain, there has little or no starvation. I really pray that I never have to use deadly force to defend the people important to me and my property from starving people or brigands due to the failure of the rule of law. I can do that if it ever becomes necessary, I just rather not have to.

    Another great article by SELCO!

  • About two months ago, I saw a story on this site about toilet paper disappearing from store shelves across the country–I laughed at it at the time, as stores here were stocked up as usual–still, I bought extra to “put away” the next couple of times I went shopping. Then, one day, I noticed the bargain-priced big rolls at Dollar Tree were completely out. Always a big seller, it was surprising to see all the empty shelves at a couple of those stores. Walmart still had plenty, and I ended up buying quite a bit on that day. Within a week, NO stores had any toilet paper, paper towels and Kleenex anywhere in city and even the outlying areas. I was able to easily share with extended family…

  • The Wuhan Virus isn’t going to simply disappear so we all best learn to live with it. We can’t long survive shutting down the economy like what has been done for the past two months. Where has that gotten us? The truth is that the virus has become a political tool pushing a leftist/globalist agenda in a global economy that was hanging by a thread anyway, and was due to collapse by its own weight of debt and corruption. The virus will now be the excuse, but not the real reason all of our lifestyles will be changing for the worse. The central bankers hope their collusion will be overlooked and the virus gets the blame.
    We don’t have “tiny little cabins in New Hampshire” but we do live somewhat remote and are thankful for it. It allows us to exit the madness at will. Maybe its like an eddy in a swiftly flowing river, allowing us to take a break and identify what challenges may be ahead.
    I enjoy reading of Selco’s experiences in a society torn asunder. Lots of useable nuggets in his writing. I can happen anywhere and I am afraid we are watching it happen here in the US.

  • You see.. when someone who’s been there and done that says something, you listen. As someone says here. It’s almost like a question answered, without being asked.

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