I’ve been off work for a couple weeks and have had a lot of time for reading. Among the things I read was Anna Reid’s Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-44. I briefly mentioned the siege of Leningrad in Wolverines: Reflections on Red Dawn and had it in my mind, so I figured it would make some great Christmas-time reading. I’m not going to review the book, but I think it’s a good idea for those of us into the world of preparedness to read and study accounts of times in human history where the shit really hit the fan for people instead of just fictional accounts. I can’t think of much else more horrific in modern history than the sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad besides Nanking. I’m sure there are a ton of other smaller and equally brutal events that have been forgotten amongst the widespread destruction of the past century.
After reading it I increased my food storage and was thankful that I have the option to do that, being born in this place during these times. Let me list a few things off hand that the citizens of Leningrad ate to survive during the siege:
– Humans. They ate corpses and there were even some cases of people killed for a bit of “long pig”.
– Dogs. There was one story of a family with a much-loved pet dog who had to kill it and eat it. They gave the intestines to a friend for his help slaughtering it.
– Joiner’s glue. It’s made from animal parts.
– The paste from book bindings. It’s flour and water.
– Sawdust bread. Certain types of sawdust was added to bread to stretch it.
– Crumbs scraped from cracks in kitchen tables.
– Cattle feed, like cakes of flax seed.
– Wheatberries recovered from a sunken ship that were moldy.
– The paste from behind wallpaper. Flour and water.
– The dirt from underneath a confectionary that burned down. Apparently there was charred sugar in the dirt. People actually paid for it too.
– Flour scraped off the walls of a bakery and from underneath the floorboards.
The book also mentioned the citizens foraging for dandelions and nettles in any available space.
Cash became worthless, but gold and silver still had value. It’s kind of funny how when you get into precious metals you really notice these things when you read historical accounts. Unfortunately for the folks who had gold and silver in Leningrad, the price of food and some crucial bribes skyrocketed beyond the cost of the metals and luxury items. I’m a big fan of precious metals but from a preparedness standpoint I think you’re a lot better off trying to acquire the things you think you’ll exchange them for in a barter economy now than counting on having all kinds of doors open for you because you’ve got a pocketful of silver dimes. I also think it’s a good idea to try to be able to be the guy (or gal) with some kind of valuble skill/product/service on the receiving end of the silver than just a consumer with silver to exchange. Money, even silver, runs out if you don’t have a flow of it coming in. I think the best way to think of precious metals from a preparedness standpoint is for all of those little things you’re forgetting.
At any rate, I think it’s worth digging into the past to find out how people coped with times of scarcity and calamity. I’m pretty sure that the contemporary writers of dystopian fiction get a lot of their ideas from these kinds of historical events.