Lost in Syria

Deborah Campbell’s search for her one-time fixer, and friend.

Early morning, August 19, 1991, the phone rang in my hotel room in Vilnius. As the Moscow correspondent for Southam News, I was in the Lithuanian capital to report on allegations that Soviet special forces were responsible for the execution of seven Lithuanian border guards.

“There’s been a coup in Moscow.” It was my editor quoting a bulletin from the Russian news agency Tass. I quickly called my fixer, Max, and as I rushed to get a flight back to Moscow, he promised to gather as much information as possible and meet me later at my office near the Russian parliament.

Max was a resourceful young translator who had helped me get my bearings when I took the posting. I had fixers in other cities, too, in the former USSR. Often, but not always, fixers are local reporters, and journalists frequently hire them to explain the lie of the land, navigate access to officialdom, conduct research, sometimes interpret...