Sophia’s Story

I’m sixteen, angry and betrayed. At age seven, my mother had put me in an orphanage for two bewildering years, before taking me home to her new husband. Soon there’s a new family – one that I feel no part of. I leave home and lose contact for a number of years. 

In my twenties, I’m a filmmaker and storyteller. I find myself plundering my mother’s life, turning her stories into fiction. Then I begin a ‘real’ film – a documentary – about her war-time experiences, but my ambivalence towards her prevents me from finishing it. I forge out my own adult life. Deep down, I blame her for the mess I make of it.

Thirty years later, my mother has dementia. I’ve still not forgiven her. I remember the film that I’d abandoned and feel compelled me to complete it. I start digging. Communism has fallen and eastern European archives are now open to the public. I learn the remarkable historical details behind my mother’s Siberian survival story. It’s an epic tale of betrayal, involving the Allies’ relationship with Stalin. With this knowledge, I start filming my mother again, trying to fill in gaps I’d left all those years ago. But she’s not only forgetting her stories, she’s also forgetting me, her daughter. I’m desperate to complete her story before it’s too late. Perhaps this is how I can reconcile with her?