MOTHER OF MINE
At the beginning of WW II, Sweden wanted to help - its war- torn neighbor Finland by offering Finnish children - temporary homes with Swedish families.
There were more than 70,000 such "war children".
Mother, do you still remember how it all began?
Do you still remember how the war began?
Do you remember, Mother, what it was like?
How different everything was before it all began?
Soon we'll be together again.
Eero, you'll be the man of the house. Take care of Mother.
I'll be back soon, and everything will be as it was.
Let me carry that. Eero, it's too heavy for you.
Are you crying?
I'm not going!
When you miss me there, I'll miss you here.
I'll always be with you.
It's time. Think of it as a vacation.
But... - We'll be together soon, and everything will be as it was.
Dad said that, too.
They'd promised the girls dolls, and the boys bikes.
First, they picked the youngest and then the prettiest girls, - the ones with the cutest smile.
Everybody was afraid of a children's home - and wanted a Swedish family to take them in.
Hello, my name is Eero Lahti and I'm from Finland.
This is my wife.
There's a letter, here for him.
From the Finnish Children's Aid Committee.
We're done eating.
Father's going to bed now. Thank you!
Should I put the boy in the children's room. - No, on the kitchen sofa.
Hi, Skane geese! Can you say Skane goose?
You have to wash your hands properly.
This is not good enough, they're dirty.
Hold your hands up, so I can reach them.
You can't go to school with dirty hands.
School? - Yes, you're going to school - if you're staying in Sweden.
I made you lunch, Hjalmar's taking you to school.
I dont want to go!
I guess you're the war child.
Come on! Welcome.
Do you pee sitting down?
Come on, Siv!
Where did you go? Where are you going?
Will you stay at Auntie Signe's?
My mother feels sorry for you.
She says children are coming to Sweden - because their parents died in the war. Did yours die?
Is Signe going to be your mother?
Want to come over to my house?
I have a foal!
Then there was a rumor that there was peace in Finland - and those who wanted to and could were allowed to return.
Then the children wanted to go home from the strange country.
Is Dad afraid of the Russkies?
There's a war on, everybody's afraid.
"The strangers and their guardians laughed and said:
'Home? You dear, innocent children, - do you know how far it is? More than 100 leagues.'
'We don't care', the children said, 'as long as we get home.'
'But you have a new home here with us..."' -Mother.
Is Dad afraid of dying?
I guess, because then he wouldn't see you anymore.
Are you afraid?
You don't really want to stay here, right?
Well? Say something!
You obviously don't wish to remain here!
Do you want to go back home to your mother?
I don't like you! You are mean!
I don't want to be away from home anymore.
You should let your own mother know.
You don't like...
"Mean"... you can't even pronounce the word exactly right.
Let your mother know thats how you feel. Go on, write her a note!
You won't have to go to school or feed the geese, either!
But you must stay away from the beach!
The wood of the pig pen is rotting. I need to buy some timber to fix it.
What are you doing? I don't understand any of this.
He's obnoxious, he's ungrateful.
He thinks this is a vacation.
Isn't it stupid?
The wall may not survive another autumn storm.
I'll buy timber in Ystad. Sure, go ahead.
Do you have the Aid Committee's adress?
I'm going to write a letter, too.
Are you alright, love?
What? Of course I'm alright.
Hjalmar Jönsson. Mrs. Grävnäs.
Welcome. I'm Signe.
So, you want to be rid of the child?
To tell you the truth... yes.
You've stated that there's plenty of room for a child - and that you have an urge to help...
Things don't always turn out the way you might have intended.
I don't know, maybe we haven't...
Its just that he doesn't now seem to want to remain here anymore.
It's not unusual to find that children might initially show some difficulty making such an adjustment.
They may not always seem to know what's best for them.
What do you say, Mr. Jönsson?
Everything's new to the boy, he's a refugee from the war - in a strange land, among strange people.
That's exactly what I mean!
That's no reason to be running out nights, stealing money...
How are we going to keep an eye on him?
God knows what he'll do next! Signe...
I just can't take it anymore!
What I mean, Mrs. Grävnäs, is that...
There's enough work with the farm and my sick father...
We can give him food and accommodation, - but not against his will!
It is important to the Committee - that the parents like the child and vice versa.
Then you'll take him?
Maybe I just go back home! Dear child, how could you do that?
Where would you go? Home. Mother's waiting for me there.
Don't you know that your Mother doesn't even live there anymore?
Oh yes, I brought a letter from Eero's mother.
Sending you back to Finland is right now out of the question.
Where would he go then?
I'm sure the Committee will find a good solution.
There's room in the children's homes. - Children's homes?
A children's home can't take better care of him than we can.
So, shall I take him with me?
There you go.
Skane goose. Skane goose.
Can you say "scarecrow"? Scare crow.
So, he talks to you, does he? - Yes.
He doesn't say a word to me. Except "Thank you" at the table.
Well, as long as he works and eats... He's not complaining.
You're the one who knows...
It is obvious you two are getting along.
It'll be fine. The Committee lady said so, too.
He's doing his best. Give him time, don't be so hard on...
It's not about giving time.
It's not about him!
I can't take this any more!
I'm just falling apart, and you can't see a thing!
For heaven's sake, Signe...
You think everything's alright.
Give Signe another kid, and everything's fine.
But it isn't.
I don't know that kid. I don't know who he is!
Just a stranger!
How could I be a good mother to a child I don't want?
I couldn't even take care of the one I had!
We've been through this before... No!
No, we haven't. We have not talked about it.
Don't just sit there like a fool!
What are you staring at? Talk to me!
What do you expect me to do?
Should I kneel and beg for forgiveness? Is that it?
Should I vanish, too?
Should I pretend everything's fine just like you? Thats enough!
Signe, you're the one making him a stranger. It's you!
Got you some timber. You're building like a real man!
I guess your father must have been a bit of a carpenter too.
You can sail a raft in the breeze, but if there's a storm, - it'll bob up and down like a piece of cork.
I know the feeling. Once you've been there...
I've sailed to France and England.
Let me show you...
That there is from Bordeaux.
The Bay of Biscay is rough in a storm, wow!
You get seasick.
I was on my way to America once, but I met Mother Signe - and my boots got stuck in this dirt.
Did you and your dad build things together?
I helped him fix the house. I can imagine.
The Russkies bombed it.
They bombed Dad, too.
I wanted to stay home, I'm not afraid of the Russkies!
When the war's over, you'll go home again.
I'll pack you a sack full of food to go.
Let me know when you're launching the raft.
Don't tell Signe.
Don't tell Signe.
"Dear Signe, -
I hope that you can manage to take care of my son.
Someone's safe arms is what he needs.
Since my husband died, I've cried a lot and couldn't cope - if I didn't know that Eero is alright..."
How dare she write this to someone she doesn't know?
Pleading to my conscience?
Isn't it enough that I have to feel sorry for the kid?
Should I mourn for her, too?
She means well... Thanks. There's two of you...
God, I'm so tired.
What does the woman write?
She's left the house.
She's working at the German HQ in Helsinki.
She's rented a room.
She doesn't want Eero to hear about that.
There! Shouldn't a mother be honest with her own child?
There's a letter for you, too!
"My dear little son, - I'm so sad to hear that you don't like it there.
Don't you think about me. Think of how lucky you are - to be able to play and eat your fill every day.
It'll take longer than I thought until you get home, - so try to be a good boy.
Remember, Mother always loves you."
Try to be a good boy.
Behave and stay near the farm.
It'll be a while until you get home.
Think of what's best for you.
I'm only thinking of what's best for you.
Stay near the farm...
"These poor children who came in such a poor state are now, - thanks to the hospitality of our Swedish families..."
Listen, it's about you. Shut up.
"...regain the life and health war-torn Finland couldn't give."
"These children are grateful to their Swedish benefactors - for their sacrifices in these times of hardship."
Grateful, it says!
We're good to you, but you're angry and boring!
They could've sent us someone nice.
I know some things I'm not supposed to tell you about!
Look at this nice dress.
What are you doing in here?
At home you can do as you please, but not here.
You've no business being here. This isn't your home!
The letter that came was from your mother.
She sends you her love.
How nice, I'm sure
What did you write?
"I can help Daddy Hjalmar with the geese," -
"Aunt Signe is a good cook, and so I actually do like it here after all".
You can go to Siv later, after...
You're making the Finn boy work?
You get off the shitty work.
Want to help all the Finnish war children do you?
It'll be Christmas soon. perhaps you'll let the boy rest then?
I'll check the electricity. With the geese Not now! Sit down!
That's the phone now.
Yes, it's me.
Yes, he is.
Merry Christmas to you, too.
Eero, it's for you.
Come on, hurry up.
Hurry up now.
Eero, darling. It's Mother. - Mother!
I miss you so much. Is everything alright?
Merry Christmas! Get any nice presents?
Mother! Are you coming here?
I can't talk any longer, I'm at HQ, but everything's fine.
They say peace will soon come, and then you can come home.
I'll see you soon!
Roll up your sleeves, like this. What?
And now... What now?
The Russians have bombed Helsinki!
The Russians have bombed Helsinki!
The city was badly damaged... What are they saying?
...explosions and fires. Windows were shattered...
What are they saying? - The Russkies bombed everything.
All of Helsinki?
Have the Russkies invaded Finland?
The main reason to the loss of human lives - was that people didn't seek shelter. The wounded and dead...
What did you do!
What would your mother have said if you'd drowned?
She wouldn't have survived the shock!
God almighty! On a raft all the way to Finland?
Have you lost your mind dear boy?
I don't want Mother to die alone.
You did survive, but I wasn't important to you.
Do you want me to have a guilty conscience again?
No, Mother! That's exactly what I don't want!
Why didn't you ever talk about it?
Often I tried, but you didn't listen. - Not true.
I would've listened, I'm your Mother...
You just wanted everything to be alright.
That's what you wrote me, - and I never knew how you were doing.
You were only a child, you must understand that.
I couldn't burden you with my worries.
Why didn't you talk when you came home?
To you? Who else?
Don't you understand? You weren't my Mother anymore.
Give me back my bike! It's not fun!
Give it to me!
It's not fun, stop!
Is this your mother?
She's so pretty. Signe!
Stop running after me! Go somewhere and play.
Show me the letter. I want to know.
Eero, stop. It's not fun!
Stop! Leave them alone!
Stop! Get out!
What is this? Get out!
Stand still, so I can talk to you!
What are you doing?
Don't yell at me!
We know now Russia will win, and that fills us with fear.
Hans-Jürgen, a peaceful man and no warrior, - is returning to Germany and asked me to join him, - and if it wasn't for Eero, I'd immediately say yes.
Taking Eero there would be selfish and wrong, - as Germany is the least safe place now.
If I deny my love and stay here, -
I'm afraid I'll lose all hope. Does it make me a better mother?
Maybe it was meant to be that my dear son came to you - who can give him all the love he needs.
That's why I'm asking you, with grief in my heart, - if Eero could stay with you.
Please, think about it, but don't tell Eero yet, - just give him my love and say everything is alright.
We have been talking, - and there's something we want to tell you.
Let's take a walk, you and me.
We had a little girl, Hjalmar and me.
Her name was Elin.
Elin was so...
...full of life. "Like Signe", they used to say, -
"they're two of a kind, always happy."
Elin, she... drowned.
She was only six.
Some said it was God's will, -
but it was my fault.
You see, Elin loved to swim.
She ran so fast, so fast - that she could hardly strip before she jumped in.
She wasn't allowed to go if the wind was too strong.
I used to say to her: "Elin, don't go if the wind's too strong."
Then there was a storm.
Two years ago.
Elin wanted to go see.
I said I was busy.
She kept asking and asking, -
and finally I let her go alone.
How could I have been so stupid?
My Dad's dead, too.
Why do people die? Why do people change all the time?
If you're here, you're here, I think.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
You see, life doesn't always turn out the way you wanted.
We don't always understand why we do the things we do.
Like your mother.
Remember the day when you first came here on the bus?
I was hoping to get a little girl, - as if that were easier.
Then you came.
I didn't want you.
The Lord takes away, - but He also gives.
We'll hang your clothes here then.
Sir, a little closer to your wife, please.
Take your hand off her shoulder, please.
Smile, please. It's not a funeral.
Here he comes!
Look at me.
Close your eyes.
We thought you needed one, - so you'll be home faster when you've been gone.
"Dear Kirsti, - we have thought about your proposition about Eero's life.
If your love to the German is that strong, -
I wish you all the best.
I guarantee you that the boy is like our own now.
Surely, I'm not a better mother than you would be, - but I'll do my best to be the best of mothers."
To agree to this Finnish proposition - seems to be in the interests of Germany, as well.
If the Germans were to comply, - we'd always remember them as our brothers in arms...
Those damn Germans will stay put... - Quiet!
The Russkies will take the whole country. - Quiet!
Citizens! We have taken the first steps in order - to regain peaceful relations with our great eastern neighbor.
It's a step towards...
We'll have to pack you lots of food, anyway. - Pack?
Your halcyon days are over.
Stop! Don't say that.
No- one's said anything like that.
Isn't Eero going back like all the war children?
I guess it's true what they say...
Children should be where their home is.
I thought Hjalmar liked me.
Oh, he does, a lot.
He wants to do everything by the book.
Does the book say I have to go home? - Only those who can.
And I can't?
Go to sleep.
School in the morning.
Hjalmar said he would've gone to America, - but his boots got stuck in your dirt.
He said that?
I want to do that, too.
You'll stay here with me and Hjalmar.
No- one's going to take you away from us.
Never? - Never.
But don't tell Hjalmar.
Have you explained?
What's there to explain?
That the German left her, - and now it's alright -
for her to have her kid back. Is that what I must explain?
Good Lord, -
we don't even know if she is in Helsinki!
You're being unfair. Unfair?
Am I being unfair?
What's fair, then?
That she'll be forgiven and be called a mother, - a woman who voluntarily gives away her child?
And I'll just gratefully take it?
First, I lose a child, then I lose another child.
Is that fair?
We can't help it. I'm not going to do it.
I am not going to...
give back our child.
He's not our child. Don't make him believe that.
I'm very good for him, he needs me!
What if Elin were away and couldn't come back?
Hjalmar, please, Elin doesn't exist.
She's not coming back to us.
Elin's never ever coming back...
You have to go now, Eero.
Mother! Mother Signe!
Let go of me! No!
My dear little Eero, how you've grown!
How was your trip?
Let's go home.
They called me again to come to the office.
I'm sure I'll get the job.
Don't you think?
Does a Kirsti Lahti live here?
Sender: Signe Jönsson Sweden
Are you sure?
Who was it?
All the bad things are over.
Mother's here with you.
I could never believe what you said.
I thought you'd disappear at any moment.
I felt - I could lose everything - at any moment.
This, or these -
Signe wanted to give me.
She'd always hoped I'd get them.
They came with the funeral invitation.
I couldn't open them...
Until I got there.
"Dear Kirsti. Life on the farm is empty without Eero.
Sending him away was hard, and I damned you for your decision.
To tell you the truth, I didn't believe you loved him.
Eero never knew that you wanted him back.
I realize now that this was wrong of me.
Please, Kirsti, let him read this letter, so he will know.
He must know. Signe."
There's peace now in Finland, which is a huge relief to us all.
Hans- Jürgen returned to Germany. Without me.
He loves me more than anything and I love him, -
but I have to ask myself whom I love the most.
I must've been blind and insane.
How could I even consider leaving my own child?
I may have to carry this guilt for the rest of my life.
But I ask of you, thankful for all you've done for Eero, - to send me my beloved son as soon as possible. Kirsti."
Sixty years, a lifetime.
It sounds ridiculous, but -
somehow it feels -
as if part of us had been left there, in Sweden.
That's where I decided never to miss you.
But you did.
I did, Mother, now I understand it.