On the Front Lines: The Firsthand Account of a Cold War Correspondent

Follow Cold War correspondent Melissa Burch as she documents the conflict between the Soviet Union and the mujahedeen.


| October 2016



Afghanistan Village

War corespondent Melissa Burch takes readers through a village in Afghanistan during the Cold War.

Photo by Fotolia/sss78

My Journey Through War and Peace: Explorations of a Young Filmmaker, Feminist and Spiritual Seeker (Mosaic Press, 2016) by Melissa Burch is the adventurous memoir of a war corespondent. Burch examines how, through outward action and inward exploration, life can unfold in mysterious ways. In this excerpt from chapter 1 "Afghanistan Ambush" Burch takes the reader through a day spent following the mujahedeen. 

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Outside the rustic house, the soldiers and I stood looking at the first rays of the morning sun in the sky, a splash of orange-yellow light. Large reddish boulders blocked the dirt road. There was no turning back. The anxiety that kept me up in the night had to be suppressed. I had to go forward, take up my camera, and shoot.

The sun was rising and the sunbeams blinded my eyes. I grabbed my sunglasses out of my backpack. My Ray-Ban knockoffs, bought in New York City’s Chinatown, instantly made me stand out. Otherwise, the mujahedeen and I dressed alike, in earth tone pajama suits with ropes tied around our waists to keep our baggy pants up. The major difference was that I wore a long tunic tightly stretched over my size 40DDD bra. Patu wool blankets hung over our shoulders like wrapped prayer shawls. Our uniforms included deflated, soufflé-shaped wool caps. You could buy these Afghani hats at any flea market in the U.S. Instead of a Soviet automatic rifle, I transported an old-fashioned 16mm wind-up Bolex film camera.

My first day of battle. The whole trip until now had been preparation for this upcoming ambush on a Soviet convoy. I was not filming refugee camps or interviewing commanders in Pakistan or standing on the border for a photo op like Dan Rather. I was partaking in a guerrilla ambush, late in the season, when the mujahedeen had usually stopped fighting.

Standing, drinking my glass of tea, now cold and bitter, I watched the mujahedeen lay out their patu blankets on the ground, in single file. They faced Mecca, knelt, and prostrated. Doc led the group invocation. I stood alone. The only woman. The only foreigner.