Ukrainians Did Not See the War Coming, Either– Now is the Time to Prepare

In recent months, the war in Ukraine has been on front pages all around the world. On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the territory of a neighboring independent state. Fierce battles of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the Russian army are still going on. Surprising the whole world with its bravery, the Ukrainian military is deterring Russian aggression in the East and South of the country with unprecedented support from the civil population.

The Russian army has also revealed its true face to the world. With particular cruelty Russian troops have been destroying entire settlements, raping women and children, shooting civilians in the back of their heads, and besieging Ukrainian cities for months.

Currently, Ukraine is shielding the “door” to Europe, taking all the power and cunning of the “world’s second-greatest army” and the fascist Putin regime upon itself. Ukrainians did not believe in the possibility of a full-scale invasion until the last possible moment, as evidenced by their calm regular life at the end of 2021, although they were warned about such development …

Ukrainians Did Not See the War Coming, Either– Now is the Time to Prepare

It is important to recognize that military operations on the territory of Ukraine have been going on since April 2014. Back then Russia-sponsored sabotage groups forcibly seized power in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. “Supported” by the Russian military, the following terroristic quasi-state formations were created there: the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. On the border of these occupied territories, an anti-terrorist operation was carried out during all these years, and since 2018 – the Joint Forces Operation has been conducted.

The Ukrainian government tried to restore the territorial integrity of its country through diplomacy, constantly appealing to the world community with pleas to pay attention to the outrages committed by Russia on the territory of a sovereign state. Unfortunately, the world did not react, which allowed Vladimir Putin to believe in his impunity and increase his geopolitical appetites. It is worth noting that over the years Ukrainians became accustomed to the regular threat of war, being counterintuitively relaxed, living peaceful and ordinary lives though hostilities that could escalate any moment. So Europe should not have gotten used to the idea that military operations can only be conducted on the territory of another state. At any moment, Russia can send its missiles to another European country.

Active talk of a possible full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine started in late autumn of 2021, and in December, virtually every Ukrainian was informed about how to get a bug-out bag ready. The joy of celebrating the new 2022 for Ukrainians was overshadowed by anticipation of a looming war. The authorities began to publish maps of bomb shelters, clear civil protection shelters, and instruct citizens to have everything they need at hand in case they have to evacuate.

In February, children in schools were told in detail about the rules of conduct during an air alarm, and their parents were asked to bring packages to school which were supposed to contain water, napkins, first aid kits and galette cookies. Leaflets with rules of conduct during the war were handed out on the streets and in the subway; signs pointing toward bomb shelters started to appear. Despite all this, the majority of Ukrainians did not believe in the possibility of a full-scale war, because Ukraine is a peaceful country that had never participated in armed conflicts right until on February, 24, it woke up to heavy explosions across the country. In the first hours of the war hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians were sitting in their cars, heading to safer western regions or abroad. Previously packed bug-out bags created precious evacuation time.

Ukraine bravely repels Russia’s attacks, and incessantly asks the world to help it survive and defend its independence. After all, if the punitive flywheel of the Russian authorities breaks it, the war will knock at the door of Europe. The hawkishness of the Russian populace is confirmed by sociological research: 86.6% of Russian citizens support the invasion of their army on the territory of the EU countries. According to the Active Group, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia may be next potential victims in Russians’ opinion.

75.5% of Russians approve of the idea of an armed invasion of another country and believe that Poland should become a target.  41% of respondents chose the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) as the next victims; another 39.9% chose Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Calls to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios appeared in Ukraine long before the invasion. With this in mind, it is time for every European to take care of their own bug-out bag.

There are some simple but important rules that will help properly pack a bug-out bag which will make it easier to survive in extreme conditions and can even save lives. It can be useful not only during war, but also in the event of natural disasters, fires, or terrorist acts.

  1. Identification papers

Prepare copies of all the documents that are important to you: passports, ID cards, birth certificates of children, medical insurance, title deeds, car ownership documents, etc. It is best to make several copies, fold each set separately and pack them in waterproof bags. You should keep original documents in a separate folder protected from moisture so that you can easily and quickly access and take them, if necessary. It is also worth having electronic copies of documents on a USB flash drive and uploading them to a cloud storage.

It is essential that you are in possession of your original identification papers! Do not put them in the bag. It is better to put them in your zipped pocket.

  1. Medicines

Everything you put in your first aid kit can be divided into two categories:

  • medications that you take regularly, as well as those that may be needed if you get sick;
  • a first-aid kit in case of injuries.

In the first-aid kit, hemostatic agents are always prioritized. For convenience, you can buy a ready-made IFAK military first-aid kit designed by NATO standards. This is much more convenient because it is very tightly packed and takes up about as much space as a medium-sized book. This set may also include a compact thermal blanket to save space in the bag, which can be bought separately. This will be very helpful if you have to spend a night in the open air or in a cold bomb shelter.

When packing a first-aid kit on your own, make sure to include a tourniquet – an urgent tool to stop bleeding. Also, the following emergency means will help save lives:

  • nasopharyngeal airway (NPA);
  • occlusion bandage (Halo Chest Seal), in case of penetrating chest wounds;
  • sterile bandage;
  • dressing bandage with a hemostatic agent for wound packing;
  • a plaster on the coil that can be easily torn off;
  • a hypoallergenic plaster (can be put into a general-purpose first-aid kit);
  • 2-3 pairs of disposable rubber gloves;
  • burn-treating hydrogel bandage ( it is not usually in the standard set, but it may be needed);
  • tactical scissors. EMT paramedic scissors. 

It is also worth adding a black marker here for making notes on a tourniquet (a blood type or important notes on a wounded person’s  arm or clothes if he/she is unconscious).

The basic first-aid kit should include:

  • antipyretics;
  • antihistamines (antiallergenic); 
  • hemostatic agents;
  • antidiarrheal drugs;
  • plasters; 
  • sterile napkins; 
  • antiseptics;
  • painkillers;
  • medication for intestinal infections;
  • sprays for the throat;
  • nasal drops;
  • anti-inflammatory eye drops;
  • medical masks;
  • medications that you take on an ongoing basis.

Remember! If you have children, you should prepare separate first-aid kits for them, taking into account age restrictions. Let your children know the content of their first-aid kits. Tell them how to use drugs, prepare individual kits for each of them. If you suddenly lose each other, they can be helped using their own bags.

  1. Money and bank cards

Make sure you put cash and bank cards in your bag. You must have some cash reserves with you that should be divided into several parts. One part should be kept in your pocket, the other, for example, in a purse/wallet kept in your bag, and another part – at the bottom of the bag. If you are attacked by robbers, you can give them a wallet or a purse with part of the cash, saving the rest of the funds. For the same reason, cards should be kept in safe places. Keep in mind that when martial law is imposed, the banking system may not work for at least a few days.

  1. Copies of keys

Prepare copies of keys to all your real estate items and cars in advance so that, if necessary, you can throw the set into the bag, without wasting time searching for them. All adult family members should have key copies.

  1. Communication means 

Keep your phones charged. Prepare some powerful power banks and chargers.  If possible, put a portable radio transmitter and a battery in the bag. It is also worth taking a radio, preferably a small-sized one, which is powered by batteries. If there is no mobile and Internet connection, you can find out the latest news and the safest corridors for leaving the war zone by using a radio.

  1. Means for heating

To keep warm under any conditions, put matches (waterproof ones designed for hunting), lighters, dry spirit, a thermal blanket or a plaid in your bag. Tourist sleeping bags can also be helpful.

  1. Food and water

Prepare a supply of products for several days. It should consist of products with a long shelf life and high nutritional value. These can include canned meat and fish, ship biscuits, dried meat, chocolate bars, dark chocolate, nuts and dried fruits. If you have a baby or young children, take food for them: canned puree or powdered baby formula. Water should be taken on the basis of 1-1.5 liters per day per adult. Try to collect such products for the use of which you do not need dishes. You can take disposable cups for hot drinks, as well as several sticks of instant coffee and tea in bags. It is also advisable to add a tourist knife, for example, as part of a compact multitool.

  1. Clothes

Put the essentials in your suitcase, taking into account the current season. Make sure they include a change of socks, underwear, and a T-shirt. You may need a warm fleece jacket, thermal underwear and a raincoat. If there is a spare place, take a change of shoes.

  1. Hygiene products

Make sure you have minimum hygiene products you may need on your trip and outside the home. It is convenient to have a travel kit, which is usually taken on the plane. It should include soap, shampoo, shower gel, a toothbrush and paste. Do not forget about dry and wet wipes (preferably antiseptic ones), toilet paper, and for women – sanitary towels or tampons.

  1. Important things

Put a flashlight and replaceable batteries in the bag. Also take a whistle or any other signaling device. Make sure you put such devices into your children’s bags. If you lose each other or are trapped under the rubble, these will allow you to signal your location.

Each family member should have his/her own bug-out bag of such weight that he or she will be able to carry within a few hours! For convenience, choose tourist backpacks of neutral colors, in no case camouflaged. In a children’s bag there should be a supply of food and water, a first-aid kit, a change of underwear, copies of documents and additional information – contact phone numbers of their parents or other relatives who can take care of them. This information should be duplicated on a separate piece of paper and laminated or kept in a waterproof bag and fixed in the child’s pocket (so that it cannot be lost). If you or your relatives have chronic diseases or special needs (e.g. insulin dependence, or severe allergic reactions), you should fix this information in a similar way and keep it in an appropriate place (e.g. in a pocket). This will help save lives if a person is unconscious. You can take care of that in advance and order bracelets with the specified information for both adults and children.. 

This is generalized information and everyone can adjust it to their needs. Children can put a favorite toy in their backpack that will help them survive stress more easily. If you have a baby, take care of diapers, wet baby wipes, powders and pacifiers.

The main thing is to stay calm! Of course, it is hard to believe that in the 21st century war is possible in Europe, but most Ukrainians also denied this until the last moment. You should believe in the best, but be prepared for anything!

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