What To Pack If You Are Fleeing For Your Life
When my mum packed up to flee her hometown at the start of the Bosnian war, she didn’t know she wouldn't be seeing home again for more than 5 years. She wasn’t aware of the terrain she would need to cross on foot - she wore slippers. She was 8 months pregnant and she was doing the best she could - she packed baby clothing, nappies, everything she would need for me, but nothing for herself.
There wasn’t exactly a manual called “What to Pack when They Invade” and the deliberate confusion of what was happening, why it was happening or how long it was going to last wasn’t helping. If you’ve been following the news in the last week, some of this might sound familiar, as sadly, war never changes.
My mom and I sat down at the start of this whole situation in Ukraine and had a retrospective “what I would’ve packed” discussion, and combined with some online research, I’ve made a shortlist of things to keep in mind.
Before any better opportunities to help arise, this is the best way I could think to do something. I know for a fact that we have a few Ukrainian readers and I kept thinking what I could possibly even say to someone in that situation, as things like “we’re with you” and “I hope you’re ok” seem like empty platitudes compared to the utter terror that I feel for them, which is nothing still compared to the terror they’re living through now.
If you happen to be in contact with someone that might find this info helpful, please pass it along;
1. This might be obvious but Pack Only What You Need; we just saw footage of a guy carrying his TV towards the Polish border. Nobody is thinking rationally so it’s very easy to forget what “essential” means, but basically if you can buy it again and don’t need it to survive to a safety point, it is not essential.
2. Instead of folding your clothing, roll it instead. You will save lots of space.
3. Wear comfortable shoes as you might walk longer than you first anticipated. Pack more socks; from wet socks eventually causing serious health issues to the fact that a fresh pair can be moralising, they're essential.
4. Dress in layers so you can flexibly adjust to weather conditions.
5. Have a warm jacket for every member of your family. Expect cold conditions and possible snow in some areas.
6. Bring a windbreaker, umbrella and/or even a cheap poncho.
7. The smaller the child, the more you might think you need to pack for them, but the opposite is true; a baby can be wrapped up warmly in anything from blankets to jackets, but you can’t. This applies generally too; don’t forget about yourself.
8. You will be tempted to bring mementos, memorabilia, heirlooms; don’t. If it doesn’t fit in a small jewellery box or isn’t a photo, leave it.
I didn’t mention passports, documents, First Aid Kits/Bandages, Soap/Toothbrush/Toothpaste or even laptops/phones because not only is that not my area of expertise, but the variability of people’s individual needs would have any suggestion I may add contribute to the confusion. Early on, people were pasting a particular comment that urged all the Ukrainian people to go to the Polish border and it promised that they wouldn’t need Visas and would be welcomed with open arms; as far as I know, the Polish side of things is still true, but Ukraine has imposed some restrictions on men aged 18-60 leaving so the information could possibly leave a lot of men stranded or at the border. Or maybe since I wrote that sentence, the situation has changed again; my point is, I don’t want to spread possibly incorrect information. If you’re Ukrainian and reading this, vet your sources before acting. Here is the official Polish Government website information for Ukrainians in English and in Ukranian.