Once My Mother

When Australian filmmaker Sophia Turkiewicz was seven 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 story behind Helen’s miraculous wartime escape from a Siberian gulag, her subsequent survival against the odds and the truth about an historic betrayal involving Stalin and the Allies. With Helen sliding into dementia, Sophia must confront her own demons. Did she ever truly know this woman who became her mother? Does she have it in her heart to forgive her? And is it too late?


Country of Production

Year of Production


57 / 75 min

Sophia Turkiewicz

Change Focus Media in co-production with Kalejdoskop Film, ABC Television

Original Language
English, Polish, Ukrainian


Festivals / Awards

Adelaide FF 2013 (Audience Award Best Documentary)
Canberra FF 2013 (Audience Award Best Film)
BOFA FF 2013
ATOM Awards 2013 (Best Documentary Biography)
AACTA Awards 2014 (Australian Academy of Cinema & Television Arts)
Nominations for Best Feature Documentary & Best Sound
FIPA Biarritz 2014
Krakow IFF 2014 (Audience Award)
Sydney IFF 2014
Rhode Island IFF 2014
Valladolid IFF 2014 (Second Prize in the “Time of History” Competition)
BiograFilm Festival Bologna 2015