The Importance of Oral History and the achievement of Sophia Turkiewicz


Once My Mother

Not everything makes it into the history books! Sophia Turkiewicz discovered this when she began to research her mother’s story in earnest. As she says herself:

“Historians can tell lies. Their sins are the sins of omission. They choose what to put in, what to leave out. When I go searching for your story in the history books, the chapter on your story is missing.”

When Turkiewicz was only seven her mother Helen placed her in an orphanage and left her there for two years. This caused a lot of bitterness between mother and daughter. As Sophia grew up she became familiar with her mother’s stories about being sent to Siberia but in her twenties she really didn’t pay that much attention to them.  She had her own life to live!

Over the years she did interview her mother and made films inspired by her mother’s life as an immigrant, with barely any English. Many years later, when Helen Turkiewicz began sliding into dementia Sophia decided it was time to really find out what happened to her mother during WWII. This film charts the course of her relationship with her mother and her mother’s incredible survival of the Polish marches.

Inspired by her mother’s stories, Turkiewicz has given us much more than just the fate of one woman. Hunting down archival material from many sources she has opened the door to a little known yet tragic episode in Polish history. Once My Mother returns to Newcastle to the Regal in July. Don’t miss it!


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Newcastle Writer’s Festival & The Press Book House

Jean Kent reading at The Press Book House

Jean Kent reading at The Press Book House

I’m so happy that the home of Starving in a Garrett was the host venue for two events for the festival. The first was on Friday evening as a lead up to the festival proper – the double launch of Judy Johnson’s Exhibit and Jean Kent’s The Language of Light. Both poetry collections are published by Flying Island Books.

On Saturday morning I was very lucky to be part of an Intimate Reading with Anthony Lawrence. Our group sat on the couches (where I usually write on Saturday mornings) and listened to Anthony read his poetry and several poems from Paul Muldoon and Geoffrey Hill. We were very spoilt having Anthony read for over an hour. Bliss! I can’t wait to read Signal Flare! Novocastrians are very lucky to have not just the Newcastle Writer’s Festival but this gorgeous little book shop and cafe as well!


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Hanging out with criminals

Yes, that’s what I’ll be doing at The Press Book House this Saturday from 10.30. I will be looking at photos from the police files in the marvellous book by Peter Doyle. I want to sit quietly and look at all the criminals. Actually its the clothes I’m really interested in and the photographs are so clear, as if they were taken yesterday, that you can see details in the women’s hats, muffs, dresses and shoes.

Ellen May Burt

Ellen May Burt Police Files Photographs

I’ll also be checking the shelves to see if any poetry books have been sold and enjoying reading and researching away from my house where all my housework waits. Pop in if you are nearby. The Press Book House is at 462 Hunter Street, Newcastle.

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Poetry at the Pub February 2014

Poetry at the Pub

Tonight at the Wicko Park Hotel in Wickham, Newcastle guest poet Meg Dunn performed in a blaze of orange light and movement. It was wonderful to see a performance poet as experienced as Meg thrilling us with her art. According to the Poetry at the Pub newsletter:

“Dunn has been a professional theatre practitioner for most of her working life, toured internationally with Zeal Theatre, nationally with the comedy Mum’s the Word, and taught drama and poetry in educational institutions. She has produced two books and is working on a major verse novel titled Komodo which she hopes to publish this year.”

Also performing her poetry at the pub was Janette Hoppe who read two of her vivid and intense short poems. Janette Hoppe and Jan Dean are contributing poets to 100 tanka by 100 poets and read some of their poetry last night at Hornsby at the launch of the tanka anthology of Australian and New Zealand poets edited by Ameli Fielden, Beverley George and Patricia Prime and available from Ginninderra Press.

Collections of Janette, Jan and Meg’s poetry is available to purchase at The Press Book House through Starving in a Garret

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A quiet place to write

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A quiet place to write.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A quiet place to write. I’m an expert at finding them. Since around 2008 I haven’t been able to do any serious writing at home. (Except the other night at midnight!) Just too many distractions – housework, the internet, dogs to be walked, books to read. The list is endless but at a cafe as long as it’s not too noisy or in the middle of a food court I can be found writing on the weekends.

I now have a new favourite location. It is the The Press Book House and I will be there writing this Saturday 1st February from around 10.30 till 11.30. Come and do some writing, researching or simply say hello and browse the shelves including the bookshelf of Australian poetry!

Hope you can make it.

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Starving in a Garret has a new home!

The Press Book House

Thank God! It is lovely to have such a friendly place with good coffee where I can relax and write and do my Starving in a Garret sessions. The Press Book House is the perfect place to catch up with friends, browse for books, have a meeting and talk writing!

Ivy and Murray are the proprietors and the bookshop is now selling the books featured on Starving in a Garret which are pictured down the right hand side of this blog. As you can see from the photo above there are plenty of books to choose from and there is also a comfy lounge. You’ll find me on that most Saturdays mid morning. Pop in and have a coffee and buy a book!

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A new session on Saturday and a new location!

I’m back after a short break (and a holiday in New Zealand) with another session of Starving in a Garret. I will be at The Press Book House this Saturday 30th November between 10am and approximately 11.30. I’ll have my laptop and my blue box and look forward to catching up with anyone who drops by. The range of books at The Press are extensive and the coffee is excellent. Come and say hi and bring along any books you have to sell.
See you there!



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Churchkey Espresso

Only a few weeks ago I met Catherine a like minded soul who has opened a new cafe at 488 Hunter Street, Newcastle – knowledge, beans and machines. The perfect place to have a session of Starving in a Garret. I will bring my blue box along full of poetry books for sale and enjoy Michael Phelps’s Recognition exhibition. I will there between 10am and 11am. Come along and have a coffee, a chat, peruse art and poetry! What more could anyone want?

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A change of venue and day!

Poetry books and more

Poetry books and more!

As I’m wandering around a cemetery on Saturday (yes, I know history buffs are strange people) I thought I would hold Starving in a Garret on Sunday, 4th August and for a change at the excellent Agosti’s Cafe on Darby Street, Newcastle. I’ll be there from 11.30 to approximately 1.30pm.

Above is Starving in a Garret in its current form – a moveable feast of books and information. Only five poetry books at the moment but I will be adding to the collection for sale as I continue to meet more people interested in the artspace and co-operative.

Come along and say hi. I am also available for advice regarding finding the time for your creative project. I’ve had to do a lot of juggling – jobs, children, housework, dogs etc over the years and I’m sure I can offer some insights on how to keep things buzzing along.


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Three new poetry books for sale!

With One Brush by Jan DeanYes, three new books! I had a wonderful time at Poetry at the Pub Monday night. It was the launch of the book Notes for the Translators, the work of 142 Australian and New Zealand poets, and a lot of excellent poetry was read and talked about.

In between breaks I managed to speak to three poets, all very devoted to their craft. I have long admired the work of Jan Dean and I now possess three copies of With One Brush to sell through the co-operative. Jan’s collection “ranges from lyricism to dramatic monologues, from humour to domestic tragedies and pleas for world peace.”

The Lyrebird thumbnail copy2I met Mark for the first time last night and he graciously gave me three copies for the garret. Here’s a bit about Mark. “Mark Tredinnick’s contribution to literature spans a remarkable range of forms and styles. His poetry has won many major awards: the Newcastle, Josephine Ulrick (second), Gwen Harwood and Blake Poetry prizes, to name a few. Mark has worked as a publisher, editor, and (once upon a time) a lawyer.”

Collecting CobwebsI also had a wonderful chat with Janette Hoppe about the difficulty of finding time to write with children. I struggled with two children eleven years apart! Janette has five! I don’t know how she manages it. She is currently working on her second collection. I grabbed three copies of her first for my blue, green and white cardboard box which is in disguise as the Starving in a Garret bookshop. Her bilingual poetry is a must read and as she writes herself: “I am able to express so many more ideas, thoughts and feelings in a few short words of Maori than in a whole verse of English.”

The Starving in a Garret box goes with me wherever I go so contact me below or by email lakelady2282 at to purchase any of the books here. More to follow!

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