Once My Mother


Sunday, Nov. 15 at 3:30pm
Missouri History Museum

When Australian filmmaker Sophia Turkiewicz was 7 years old, her Polish mother, Helen, abandoned her in an Adelaide orphanage. Sophia never forgot this maternal act of betrayal. Now in middle age, as Sophia examines her troubled relationship with Helen, she discovers the full story behind her mother’s miraculous survival in the years before, during, and after World War II. The details of Helen’s pre-Australia life are the stuff of epics: orphaned at 6; abandoned at age 9 by an indifferent uncle; forced to live for years on the streets of her small Polish town (now part of the Ukraine); shipped at 16 to a Russian gulag to work as a slave laborer after Stalin and Hitler divvy up Poland; twice compelled to trek endless miles through Russian territory, ending up first in Uzbekistan and then in Persia; displaced to a refugee camp in Rhodesia, where she becomes pregnant -- by an Italian soldier -- with Sophia; finally arriving in Australia, where she’s forced to temporarily place her daugher in an orphanage. With Helen now sliding into dementia, Sophia must confront some difficult questions: Did she ever truly know her mother? Does she have it in her heart to forgive her? And is it too late?

Australia, 2014, 75 min.

Directed by

Sophia Turkiewicz

Film Category

Leon & Mary Strauss Documentary Spotlight Women in Film Spotlight International Spotlight



Film Website

Official Website

Shown with

If Mama Ain't Happy, Nobody's Happy

If Mama Ain't Happy, Nobody's Happy

How can you keep distance from the one who loves you the most?

Mea de Jong, Netherlands, 2014, 25 min., Dutch