I had a VERY similar experience yesterday; winter Chernarus is absolutely awful to survive in. Provided you already know exactly how to play vanilla DayZ (you said that you're here to avoid KoS servers, which is fair enough), there's not many tips that you'll find useful.
Took me 3 attempts to get properly set up, and on the 3rd I spawned in some backwoods lodge and wound up spending over 3 hours working out where I was before finally ending up in Chernogorsk. I don't have much experience with vanilla DayZ so the loot drops on this server are all I'm really familiar with, and they seem plentiful enough. I'm not sure why you're looking for knives in Zelenogorsk's houses - I found 3 (then managed to lose one because I'm a moron) in a single hunting lodge. Remember you have a stone knife which should be enough for your first campfire. Food-wise you're better off looking for animals to murder than trying to eat packaged pre-outbreak food, because its spawn rate is stupidly low.
Only difference I've found on this server from my few hours of vanilla is that food and water decay FAR more slowly (like 0.25x? 0.33x?), so it's easier to keep those under control even with cholera (make sure to wash your hands after butchering animals... I have learnt this lesson the hard way). As a result, it means you can sprint and fight without worrying about your nutrition levels quite as much. When my character sprints (this is with good insulation, mind), even in a snowstorm he gains body temperature.
Rose-tinted Goggles (1992 - 2015) Dimitris and Elena had, by chance, timed their contracts with the Commission almost perfectly. Their son would be born as they took up their new positions in Cyprus as trade representatives of the EC. Like most children of diplomats and other attaches, he was destined for a childhood overseen by hired help rather than the parents themselves. The family lived extremely comfortably by local standards, possessing two cars, personal computers, and a holiday home. Accordingly (and fittingly for the child of two diplomats), Sotirios was enrolled in a private American school in the leafy outskirts of Nicosia. This was a rather insulated education - the vast majority of his classmates were also rather wealthy foreigners, and Sotirios' integration with the Cypriot mainstream was a little strained, despite a common Greek heritage. He excelled in junior and middle school with very little effort (Cyprus' accession to the EU as a full member state in 2004 provided his parents with a convenient reason to retire, allowing them to assist their child in his studies), however high school posed a threat he was entirely unprepared for. More content than could be crammed into the night before meant that he found himself just about scraping the top grades throughout the year, and it was only the promise of a good opportunity at university abroad that spurred him on to succeeding in his final exams. With the UK's universities being practically Europe's best, and being a fluent anglophone, he made his application to five universities in England including the London School of Economics, and simply hoped. Sotirios' admission into the LSE was a thing of great wonder for his parents. His choice of Politics and International Relations as the degree course was perhaps a little less inspiring - both had studied cold hard economics in all its mathematical glory, and they made no secret of their concern that he'd be unemployable come the end of university. Regardless, they were more than happy to pay the cheaper EU tuition fee and his living costs (and with hindsight they were doubly thrilled - just a year later the tuition fees charged by UK universities would triple). It was clear to both friends and professors that Sotis didn't plan to take his degree particularly seriously, and he graduated in 2013 having scraped a 2:1 (in theory the second highest degree level, in practice the bare minimum one could get away with and still expect the degree to count for anything). At university, his main extracurricular achievement (arguably his only one) was obtaining a respectable degree of understanding of the Russian language on the urging of his parents who saw (or at least believed they saw) the balance of geopolitical power swing East, something that was reinforced by the annexation of Crimea in 2014. His academic advisors had seen in his multilingualism an opportunity, however, and encouraged him to continue studies in the field of public administration, sensing a future in the EU along the lines of his parents, or perhaps the United Nations. With his parents more than content to foot the bill in their comfortable retirement, Sotis would go on to become a Master of Public Administration in 2015. This, he found substantially more challenging than his undergraduate degree, and his professors were far more willing to "bite" intellectually. As a result, he found there to be considerably less tedium here than previously, and felt considerably more engaged. After his graduation in 2015, Sotirios found himself living in London, on his parents' money. It was time to go a-hunting for work. Chernarus Calling (2015 - 2016) And find work he did, with the OHCHR of all places. Sotirios had ambitions about working with the UN, but not necessarily as a human rights monitor. However, it offered some of the best renumeration packages for MPAs, and the crisis in Crimea and in Lobotev's Chernarus led to a massive increase in the UN's staff dedicated to monitoring Russia and its environs. Applying and, after a lengthy examination process, securing a post as an Assistant Human Rights Officer in one of the delegations in Chernarus, meant that Sotirios' career path could finally start. Most of the knowledge that Sotirios had of socioeconomic human rights issues came from his own preparation for the OHCHR selection process, not his university studies in England. As a result, he found himself having to read more and more in depth regarding these before his posting in mid 2015. As a UN aspirant state, Chernarus was obliged to let these Europeans with slick suits and university degrees enter and start poking their heads into their internal affairs to some extent - the entire OHCHR team was heavily disliked by Lopotev's government, who had their own agenda regarding the ethnic Chernarussians ever since the Hrůzy of 2013. Most of the delegation's work involved compiling reports to be discussed in the Human Rights Council (of which, ironically, the Russian Federation was a member until its term expired at the end of 2016), and despite a few scares by the militant and relatively xenophobic CDF, the delegation were largely uninterrupted in their investigations. Sotirios conducted his duties as professionally as he could, and he was not burdened by the powerful conscience that plagued many of his co-workers. Unlike some delegates which viewed themselves as investigator-activists, Sotis was more inclined to act as investigator-archivist. All he had to do was write reports and make analyses, and either the "free nations of the world" would sort it out, or no-one would. A Dream Deferred? (2016 - 2020) The assassination of Lopotev sent shockwaves through the UN Secretariat, and through OHCHR in particular - they had long since seen the writing on the wall, and suspected already that his replacement was likely going to be far worse for the ethnic Chernarussians. The new President Ivan Bernarus did not immediately prove their fears well-founded, but increased links with Russia worried pretty well every international organisation. The reprisals against the CLF conducted by the Bernarus government were investigated, reported on, and publicised by the OHCHR delegation - and then duly ignored by the UNHRC in every assembly. Despite this, Sotis continued his duties without much incident, and by now was getting a lot more familiar with the Chernarussian people. Knowing he was an ambassador of the UN, he restrained himself from engaging in outright hedonism with his generous pay - that didn't stop him sleeping around a fair bit and bankrolling expensive hobbies such as mountaineering and scuba diving. The referendum came like a bolt from the blue, and even more alarming was the pace at which the Benarus government sought to fully integrate with the Russian Federation. When the treaty came in October 2018, the OHCHR delegation's position was suddenly unclear from a bureaucratic perspective - the issues hadn't gone away, but the country they were supposed to be hosted by no longer existed. As it happened, this was less of a problem than initially appeared, and it was neatly solved by reassigning all personnel to the broader Russian delegation. The next two years saw more and more discrimination against the native Chernarussian populace, and even the normally indolent and apathetic Sotiris started to feel pangs of sympathy for their plight in the face of the Russian bear. His work continued, otherwise, as before - with the caveat that the media outlets that asked the delegation to comment on their latest research were now decidedly pro-Russian in nature, and accordingly extra care had to be taken by Sotis and the rest of the delegation not to offend Russian sensibilities. With Russia effectively holding veto powers across any important decision in the UN, they cared little for a few bureaucrats running around their newest state cataloguing violations. Many of Sotis' fellow officers at this stage started to leave the UN as an institution for civil service posts in their own national governments, and many more requested reassignment, feeling redundant. With a team suffering from chronic attrition, Sotis became a full Human Rights Officer in late 2019. A New Order (2020 - present) The OHCHR staff across Russia, by virtue of their professions, were in a terrible position when the Frenzied Flu hit. With Russian authorities suspecting that they would spread "misinformation" about their appalling handling of the infection, pretty well all UN staff were prevented from travel. Many sought refuge in embassies or consulates where they held citizenship - as a Greek in Chernarus, Sotis had no such luxury. He stayed in a hotel for the first few months of the pandemic, where he made as much contact with his family as he could through unreliable channels such as smuggled letters. When martial law was finally imposed in May, Sotis duly followed the government's lead. All that he had learnt throughout his university education and his work with the UN felt hopelessly obsolete when the circumstances were this bad - what use freedom when one finds themselves dead? Sotis' knowledge of Chernarussian has allowed him to survive better in the quarantine camps than many of his hapless fellow foreigners - whilst he sees no light at the end of this particular tunnel yet, he at the very least has some concept of what is going on around him. He has hung his head in shame more than once as he watched protesters being gunned down from the safety of the barbed wire fencing separating himself from what he believes to be hordes of infected. But in this new order, there is little use for a professionally-trained human rights officer; now is the time to get back to basics once more, for survival itself depends on it.