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Letters From Poland (1978)


Set in Sydney in 1950, Letters From Poland follows a few months in the life of Dana (Basia Bonkowski), a young woman who’s recently migrated from Poland. Dana eagerly awaits the arrival of her husband, prevented from joining her by his ailing mother. She lives in a boarding house and works as an after hours office cleaner. She looks after her small baby while anxiously anticipating each letter from her husband. She is befriended by a nightwatchman in the building where she works (Martin Vaughan). While the motivations of her sole workmate and the assurances of her husband seem genuine and Dana’s expectations reasonable, both men disappoint her.

Curator’s notes

Letters From Poland was the graduation film of Sophia Turkiewicz, one of the first graduates of the full-time course at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS). She went on to direct the similarly themed feature, Silver City – the story of a group of postwar European immigrants in a migrant hostel. Letters From Poland is however, a far more solemn film, focusing on the situation of one migrant woman – the mother of a young baby who has put on hold any hopes of contentment until her husband joins her in Australia.

While the plight of migrant women was a pillar issue for 1970s and 1980s feminism in Australia, the film’s approach to the issue is very focused on the individual. There are workplace scenes, but issues of discrimination and rates of pay are not at the core of Dana’s unhappiness. Rather loneliness, isolation and feelings of difference are the cause. Unlike the women in Silver City she has no migrant community around her. What’s more, no change or solution seems imminent. But at the time when migrant issues and non-Anglo Australian female leads were a cinematic rarity, the film’s content was much welcomed.