We broadcast from our neighbor’s land
Monday, November 24, 2014 - 10:15:52
(VOVworld) - One winter morning of 1972 when I parked my bike and entered the lobby, Mrs. N stuck her head out of her office door and said: “Go upstairs quickly, the Boss wants to see you”.
Those days Hanoi had been devastated by US B52 bombers. The streets were empty with just a few people rushing elsewhere. The Overseas Service in which I had been working for 3 years was evacuated to a place quite far from Hanoi. Our English section had 5 people, two of whom seniors. A few days ago as the Me Tri transmission station was hit by US bombardments VOV had to broadcast its programs from a backup place so the signal quality was not good.
I was a bit nervous when hearing the news that the Boss wanted to see me. What would happen? A sudden trip? Was it going to be interpretation for an interrogation with a US pilot or a group foreign reporters on the battlefield that I had done recently or any thing else? At that time when the national war of resistance was in its final years, many Vietnamese men wondered if they would miss the opportunity to go to the southern battlefield.
But the Boss’s story was much different from my thinking. “Go home immediately and pack for a long trip with unknown return date”. I was not sure where to but certainly not to the battlefield as I expected. The place I was going to, according to my Boss, was safe and very far from Hanoi to continue our editing and transmission and to make VOV’s signal even stronger than before we were hit by US bombardments.”
It was unclear where I was heading to and for how long? No one dared to ask the Boss.
A train trip up north
We went by car through a number of plain and forest areas up north before reaching a reception point in China. Only after sitting there and hearing the children calling each other in Chinese did we realize that we were in China. Our trip then began with train, which passed by numerous forests, plateaus, tunnels, towns, and cities before arriving in our destination, a safe place deep into Chinese territory, where we were allowed to use their transmission station to broadcast our programs to Vietnam and other countries.
Snow fall and two springs in China
I’m always moved with one of the already blurred photos I still keep from those days. That’s the photo of us, editors and announcers playing with snow. That day was extremely cold. Everyday we had to travel quite a long distance to our work place. Just like in any where else, there were often more news when it was getting late. There was news about diplomatic activities, the shooting down of a US aircraft, and happenings on the battlefield. Whatever happened we were supposed to cover immediately. On the way home, the weather turned windy and someone shouted “Look, it’s snowing!” Initially the snowflakes were scattered then they were denser creating an impressive atmosphere particularly for all of us who came from a tropical country. All of us and our Chinese colleagues rushed to the yard to enjoy the moment we first saw snow in our lives. During the two next winters, there was no snow anymore. Until now although I have traveled to many places, that snowy night remains vivid in my mind, which is associated with the first days of my radio broadcasting career.
To receive news sent from Vietnam, we established something we call nowadays a radio bridge but simpler. The editors in Vietnam read the news on a certain frequency, then we recorded, transcribe and retype the news (not many of us knew how to type). From the end of afternoon until midnight we gathered around a radio set and a typing machine to get the latest news bulletin to translate for broadcasting. Of course, we had another information channel. Every week, we (just a few young men) took turn to go by train to the border checkpoint to receive recorded radio programs sent by our colleagues in Vietnam, Time passed by, via radio we all looked toward hearing about the progress of the construction of a transmission station in Vietnam so that we could quickly return home. No body knew that we had to spend two Tet in China.
“This is the Voice of Vietnam, broadcasting from...”
VOV’s signature tune in many languages during those years brought faith and pride to Vietnamese soldiers fighting on faraway battlefields and Vietnamese people all over the world. We received thousands of letters sent by people from across the globe to express their admiration and sympathy for the difficulties the Vietnamese people had been enduring. We replied them by postal mail and on radio. The very few staff members of the Overseas Service worked day and night ceaselessly. Perhaps not many people noticed the minor difference in the place of transmission and were aware that to ensure consistent signal we had to work very hard to silently contribute to our homeland.