Caught In The Crossfire by Australian author Matina Jewell is an incredibly personal and courageous memoir. Growing up near Byron Bay, Matina spent her weekends swimming, surfing, riding horses and playing team sports including volleyball, going on to play her first national titles when she was just thirteen. Matina even travelled to China to play volleyball for Australia and decided she wanted a career where she could travel and continue to learn about other cultures around the world.
Initially wanting to pursue a career in physiotherapy, Matina joined the Australian Defence Force Academy after High School, and began her training as an Officer in the Army. After graduating she spent time in the Solomons and the Middle East, and in 2004 was selected for a prestigious role with the United Nations. Prior to taking up her UN posting she took the opportunity to learn Arabic, a decision that later saved her life.
In July 2006, Matina was close to finishing her posting at Patrol Base Khiam in Lebanon, when war broke out. Matina was seriously injured whilst leading a convoy of armoured vehicles to safety. Shortly afterwards, her unarmed UN team mates - who had become like brothers to her - were killed when PB Khiam was hit by an aerial bomb, despite their requests to evacuate.
Matina’s evacuation to Australia was a nightmare, and she later learned the full extent of her physical injuries, including fractured and crushed vertebrae. Matina suffered from survivor guilt and battled severe depression, being achingly honest in her memoirs. However Caught In The Crossfire is an inspirational story, as Matina eventually finds the inner strength to turn her life around and find a way to honour and commemorate her fallen comrades. It’s also a love story as the love and support of her boyfriend at the time Clent, proves pivotal; he literally travels halfway around the world for her.
I also loved the QR codes, enabling me to watch the footage interspersed throughout the book, very high tech for the time it was published.
Matina has had an incredible physical and emotional journey to get to this point and hers is a story that must be read to be believed. (Imagine being dropped from an ambulance with an already broken back for instance!) You can find out more about this remarkable woman by visiting her website matinajewell.com
My rating = *****