Movie Review : Once My Mother


Sophia Turkiewicz is an Australian film maker who, at the age of 7, was abandoned in an orphanage by her mother. As Sophia herself says, it was here that she learned to love and hate her mother in equal measure. But this story of unresolved conflict, love and betrayal has more to it than even Sophia expected.

It begins in Poland on the eve of World War II when Sophia’s 9-year-old orphaned mother, Helena, is cast onto the streets by an uncaring uncle. She leaves her small village for the nearest city and struggles to even feed herself. Within a few years, Poland is ripped apart by an agreement between Hitler and Stalin and the young Helena joins thousands of her fellow countrymen trekking across Russia to Siberia where she is put to work in a Russian gulag.

Within a few years, Helena will survive walking back across Russia and Europe until she is finally settled into a refugee camp in Africa. Here she falls pregnant and gives birth to Sophia. Being an unwed mother, she has few options open to her but luckily, passage to Australia is one of them.

When Helena arrives in this strange hot land, she cannot work and care for Sophia and so gives her up to a orphange. It is only 2 years later that she returns to collect her daughter and by this time, the damage is done. The relationship between the mother and daughter is and always will be understandably fractured.

As Sophia grapples with her own sense of identity, she decides to tell the story of her mother. This was many years ago and it was ultimately abandoned as real life distracted her. But with her mother slowly succumbing to dementia, Sophia has one last chance to resolve her own issues and possibly those of her mother.



Sophia bares her heart and soul in this award-winning documentary. She understands that if she wants to find the truth, she must confront her own demons. How her illiterate, non-English speaking mother embarrassed her as a child. How her own anger at her mother’s abandonment set the tone for her own adult relationships. How the love between a mother and her child can be so deep that it simply cannot be fathomed.

As Sophia investigates Helena’s story, really investigates it with the clear head of a film maker and not the pouty arrogance of an angry child, she finds the truth. And it is a truth she seemingly did not expect.

Sophia takes us on Helena’s tragic and heart breaking journey and we, along with her daughter, begin to see a woman who although uneducated was painfully aware of her own shortcomings. We see Helena through a mother’s eyes, through a survivors eyes. What this woman had to endure, what she did for Sophia, speaks not of a uncaring, unloving woman but of a remarkably strong woman who put the needs of another human being before her own…..even when it broke her heart.

I shed more than a few tears for both these women and wish I could know more.

This is a wonderful, moving tribute from a daughter to the mother who sacrificed everything so her daughter could have everything.

Love Flick xx

Director: Sophia Turkiewicz

Writer: Sophia Turkiewicz

Running Time :  75 minutes

One Response to “Movie Review : Once My Mother”

  1. An extraordinary, moving, powerful, wonderful film on so many levels. This is a story that is beautifully told and needs to be heard. An amazing story of the will to survive, of strength, and of love; a story about WW11, Poland and Australia; story about displacement, refugees, and how they can and do enrich a nation; a story that you won’t find in any history books. Absolute remarkable courage and honesty from Sophia in telling her part of the story, and such empathy, love and understanding in the telling of her mother’s.

What did you think?

Pin It
%d bloggers like this: