12 Survival Lessons to Learn from the Invasion of Ukraine

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been a wake-up call for many preppers. It has shown us that no matter how prepared we think we are there is always something that can catch us off guard.

This event in particular has underlined the importance of being ready and adaptable so that you may deal with a chaotic and quickly evolving situation.

Ukraine flag with soldier

War, widespread civic disruption and all the attendant effects will leave you precious little time to get your affairs in order. You must begin preparing now if you want to survive.

In this article we will discuss a few critical survival lessons that we can learn from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Get Out Early

One of the single most important lessons that can be learned from the Russian invasion of Ukraine is that of getting out and away from danger as early as possible. This just does not apply to Warfare and other armed conflict, however.

All kinds of disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires and others give advance notice of their approach, and this early warning can be used to good effect if you will simply evacuate to a safer area or well out of the path of danger.

This is a tough call for preppers, as nobody wants to be seen as a scaredy cat or much less waste time, effort and resources for nothing if it turns out that the danger misses entirely or is abated at the last second, but this is one of those situations where you are very literally gambling your life on a spin of that allegorical roulette wheel.

When the consequences are serious or total it is far better to grab your family, load up the vehicle and head for the hills for an ad hoc vacation if it turns out you are wrong, then wait until a meaningful evacuation will be too late to get you clear of danger before the crisis point.

You must always weigh the trade off and choose according to your situation and your objectives, but this is truly one of those times where it is better to be safe than sorry lest you wind up like the poor citizens of Ukraine trapped in cities and on highways trying desperately to escape an armored advance.

Backup Plans are a Must

This situation more than most has shown people in sharp relief just how important it is to have backup plans on top of backup plans for all of your most essential objectives and material preps.

For instance, if you plan on evacuating speedily and quickly away from danger via a main thoroughfare, but that highway, interstate or other path becomes hopelessly clogged far more severely and far earlier than you had planned, what will you do in response?

Again, images of jam-packed, gridlocked highways are all over every news outlet on TV and the internet, showing a sea of vehicles all heading away from Kiev.

If you were in that situation and had a backup plan, you might abort before you got trapped on the highway and try your luck on a smaller roadway going in another direction and if that proved hopeless as well you could consider giving up your vehicle entirely and walking out or trying to go by some other means.

Apply this thinking towards every facet of your plans, from transportation, to route planning, material equipage, safe harborage and more.

No plan will survive contact with the event, and you need not be facing War to have even the best and most intricate plans put to a severe test in a crisis.

When considering backup planning, simpler is usually better. An easy to remember and flexible plan that is adaptable is almost always of more service than one that is rigidly implemented and intricately detailed every step of the way.

Believing in the Status Quo Could Kill You

Probably the most insidious and heartbreaking part of this entire debacle is just how unprepared the average citizen seems to be. Even though the hungry Russian Bear was quite literally at their doorstep for years, sometimes sleeping and sometimes growling, it was always there.

But seemingly no one, including the Ukrainian government, considered the inevitable because of the way things were and had always been in recent memory.

Nothing bad will happen because nothing bad has happened, at least in a long time. that was indeed an accurate assessment right up until the point that it wasn’t and people got caught with their pants down and totally unprepared.

Good luck does not cover a lack of preparation forever as many in Ukraine are learning in the most painful way possible.

If there is an endemic threat in your area, be it natural or otherwise, you must not omit planning and preparing for it just because it is statistically or anecdotally incredibly unlikely to occur.

Indeed, planning for things that no one else seems to think will happen is indispensable for preppers because you know then that the mass majority of people are going to be hopelessly unable to deal with it should it occur.

Note that this is not to say you should take every pie in the sky apocalyptic threat or conspiracy theory seriously, because some things are so outlandish or so vanishingly, incredibly unlikely to occur that they border on the fantastical.

But if you are facing a grounded, realistic but seemingly dormant threat don’t ignore it!

Beware of Misinformation

The information age of human civilization has given way to the misinformation age. The internet has brought us a vast, virtually unimaginable amount of data right to our fingertips and there for the sifting and sorting, but a dark side to this proverbial coin as it has brought to us also misinformation, propaganda and outright deception.

This adds a new and subtle risk factor to the calculus for those who practice a lifestyle of personal readiness.

Gathering Intel and information about an event, a threat or a larger situation is imperative because it informs our own decision making processes. But this is very much a garbage in garbage out sort of formula.

Timely, relevant, accurate information will allow you to act and react quickly and precisely, likely obtaining a good outcome and saving lives in the process.

But the opposite is also true. Basing your actions off of information that is stale, manipulated, edited or plainly false, or even false with malevolent intent, can result in abject disaster for you and yours. The trick, of course, is verifying what you see, read and hear.

This is much easier said than done, as false information can propagate rapidly in a viral fashion particularly during times of upheaval and stress.

Always, always, always use your own good common sense and a logical deduction for all things and double your caution when obtaining information from any source that might be emotionally or ideologically compromised.

Understand Your Special Vulnerabilities

There was nothing about invasion that is pleasant for people caught between the grinding gears of conflict, but imagine how much worse they might feel to discover that they live near a priority civil or military target!

It is highly likely that they will feel like they are singled out for getting worked over by a military on either side.

This is because they did not comprehend or fail to plan for their own special vulnerabilities. A special vulnerability is one that might only arise in specific circumstances or as a result of certain actions or events.

Living near a military base during close conflict or a nuclear exchange is one such special vulnerability that might not make a difference in your planning any other time.

You could say the same thing about living on the side of a mountain during a volcanic eruption or an earthquake. Any other time, it isn’t a problem!

This is a matter of perspective, and accounting for these subtle and tricky vulnerabilities is a challenge even for a bright person.

Considering all of the many ways and permutations that events can interact, chain react and cause further trouble is an interesting intellectual exercise but it must be done if you want to be truly prepared for all occasions.

Take the time now to consider what societal, logistical and hazardous effects might arise in your local area due to your proxemics and other factors unique to your situation.

Avoid Complacency

In any dangerous situation getting caught flat-footed is often the very worst thing that can happen to a person.

When danger is near and closing in finding yourself standing on the so-called X means you are likely to meet your maker. If you cannot react in time, cannot get out of the way or cannot improve your defenses you are history.

This is because people so often give in to complacency, one of the twin devils alongside ignorance that leads to destruction and death.

Complacency is what happens when you know better, but choose not to do better. Whether it is from a lack of will, a lack of motivation, a lack of discipline or anything else, you must not fall victim to it.

Complacency could be deferring the replenishment of your personal survival stash after the last close call, forgoing regular shooting range practice sessions, allowing your physical fitness to deteriorate or failing to thoroughly, diligently review, revise and update your response plans in light of new information.

Complacency comes in many guises, and all of them are harbingers of disaster. Don’t allow yourself to fall prey to it!

Guard Against Opportunists

As grim as it is to consider, you must remain on guard against anyone who is offering to help during a time of crisis. And variably, the shaking, rattling and rolling that accompanies society in turmoil brings many cretins floating to the top out of their burrows and the storm drains.

What might at first appear to be a humanitarian outreach, a Good Samaritan or a helping hand might be a group looking to pray upon desperate survivors and evacuees, a highwayman or the hand that picks your pocket.

This type of activity is invariably found anywhere that major turmoil is, and is disproportionately located around cities and other large population centers.

Areas that are smaller with significant in-group preferences where everyone is said to know everyone else are less likely to encounter this phenomena, but only from within.

This is particularly despicable because evacuees, survivors and victims of the circumstances will likely and rightly be desperate for any aid or succor that can be found.

Should you find yourself in these circumstances, your watchword must be trust, but verify. Do not leave anything truly critical or precious to you to the whims of any outsider or charity.

If you are ever in doubt, be sure before you commit to help, aid or transit from any outside source.

Train, Train, Train Some More

For me personally one of the most haunting parts of the Ukraine invasion is watching the government mass conscript the overwhelming majority of the male citizenry, and madly attempt to equip and train them with what few hours remain before they are thrust into combat against a modern and well equipped military.

Images abound of men and women alike training with cardboard cutout rifles and a hodgepodge of hand me down, scavenged or surplus equipment.

Passing interviews with many of them reveal that they had never even handled a gun prior to that point, and you can be assured that many of them have never even been in a fist fight.

Your situation might not see you thrust into impromptu military service or even embroiled in a major gun battle but you will be severely tested all the same. If you want to survive the lesson, you must be trained beforehand.

Extreme circumstances are no time for figuring things out or making them up on the fly. Every skill set, from first aid to combatives to land navigation and shelter construction can be learned and diligently practiced right now, today, well ahead of any event where you might conceivably need it.

If you fail to train in the skills that are likely going to be required in any major survival situation you are planning to fail.

Become an “Expert Generalist”

On the subject of training, you must train in such a way that you’ll be prepared to handle a wide variety of survival domains.

Consider the situation that Ukrainians in the path of the invasion are facing right now.

They might have to drop everything, flee their home on foot, survive with no guarantee of shelter or food or protection, and then sustain in place for an indefinite amount of time before they go home and that is if they get to go home.

It should go without saying that they have a lot on their plate, and this is one situation where high expertise in a particular survival skill is just not going to pay the bills by itself.

In this situation, and frankly in most other survival situations, it is far better to be a seasoned jack of all trades than a master of one.

Some preppers are of the mindset that having a group of experts that can cover up for the weaknesses of the others in the group is the way to go, but I greatly prefer to take my chances with a group of similarly skilled generalists.

Keep in mind that you might not always have your fellows to depend on, and if the Starsky to your Hutch is missing or dead you could be up a creek. You should be able to handle, at least possibly, any survival problem that comes your way.

And don’t despair if this sounds like a titanic amount of work, either. It is possible to reach general competency in a skill reasonably quickly with some diligence and engaged practice. It is attaining mastery, true mastery, that is often a year’s or decades long slog.

When you are good enough at something, you are probably good enough to handle most instances of it, and you should take comfort in that before you move on to learning the next essential skill.

Establish Core Survival Values Now

Most folks who have never survived a major catastrophe, natural or otherwise, to say nothing of surviving War and the aftermath of War will never know the soul rending pain of being confronted with those who have lost absolutely everything and are desperate for help.

I know that most people, most decent people with a beating heart in their chest, would do anything to help these poor victims.

And most regrettably, here lies the rub for a serious survivor.

If you have taken great pains and sacrifice too much to ensure that your family is provisionally prepared with everything that they might need should disaster strike, are you going to simply give it away to someone else, even if they are less fortunate than you are and have lost more?

This is a situation that many Ukrainians and neighbors in surrounding countries are facing right now.

to be perfectly clear, I am not saying that you should or should not, but what I am advocating for in the strongest possible terms is that you take the time to discuss all these possible outcomes with your family ahead of time and reach a decision if not consensus ahead of time so that you are not tested severely in an actual event.

You may decide to help, or you may decide to hedge your bets and keep all available resources for you and yours. I’m not judging you, but I am advocating from experience and from long observation of historical precedent that you do not want to be figuring that sort of dilemma out when it is staring you in the face.

Create a Family / Group Master Plan

It is one thing to imagine responding to a crisis with everyone that you care about at your side or close at hand, but another thing to deal with it when they are all scattered to the four winds living their own lives, or just out and about across the countryside for any number of reasons.

It is another order of magnitude worse to imagine being separated from them by forces not your own or by circumstances.

Nonetheless, this is something that the people of Ukraine are dealing with right now, today.

What would you do if disaster struck while you were at work, your spouse was out of town, one of your kids was in school and the other one was simply somewhere else, location unknown?

What would you do then if you were drafted to fight in the military?!

This is truly the stuff of nightmares for people who make the safety and security of their family and loved ones the responsibility of themselves and themselves alone.

For that reason, it is imperative that you sit the whole family down ahead of time and develop a robust, redundant and survivable family master plan for dealing with crises.

It should include contacts and backup communications channels, rallying points and redundancy options for keeping the family together should one or more members be separated for any number of reasons.

This plan might include contingencies that border on the unthinkable if you have made your plans in a nice and sterile white box environment, but these plans must be made all the same just in case.

Don’t Rely on the Government

If there is one lesson that absolutely every one of us should have learned by now, everyone in the world over, it is that you simply cannot trust the government to do anything except make things worse.

If you are not a person that actually has your hands on the levers of national and international power then you are what I like to call little people.

Little people are broadly the same the world over, and are concerned with personal and family resources, family relationships and basic human prosperity.

Accordingly, you are the only person that will provide for yourself and the people you care about, end of story. You had better believe that you, you and no one else, are the only person that will truly look out for the best interests and the welfare of you and yours in a disaster or any other crisis event.

No one is coming. There will be no cavalry. There will be no superheroes swooping in to save the day. It is up to you, so act accordingly.

What Other Lessons Have You Learned?

The unfolding invasion crisis in Ukraine has shocked the world, and is holding the attention of everyone watching. We want to see what comes next and desperately want to look away by turns.

This macabre fascination does not have to remain just that, however, and you can use this unsettling gut-wrenching event to motivate your own prepping and infuse it with new purpose.

Learn the lessons that this instance has to teach and you’ll be better prepared for dealing with any survival situation that you might be facing in the future – and do share what other things you’ve learned in a comment below.

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