This story is based on actual events
Poland, December 1945
Got money? Take me to a doctor.
Give me 10 zlotys.
No money. I'll help if you give me something.
Will this do? Not a Polish or Russian doctor.
What's that nun?
So, happy to be leaving?
Let's prepare the next departure.
Do you see any penicillin here?
No, there's none left.
This is all we have.
Are you pinching it for yourself? Very funny.
Doctor... I'm busy right now.
We need you in here.
I need help. I don't understand.
Sick woman... Polish.
Only French here.
Woman going to die.
Go to the Polish Red Cross.
I don't understand. Help me.
The Polish Red Cross. No! I beseech you!
Help me! The Polish, all right?
Who is this?
A doctor. I was worried. Go to your cell.
Do you speak French?
Yes, I speak French.
Are you a doctor? I work with the Red Cross.
I'm Sister Maria.
This is our Abbess, Mother Jadwiga Oledzka.
Has she been like this long? Since yesterday.
Her family threw her out.
We've secretly taken her in out of charity.
Fear not, I'm sworn to silence.
Is that necessary? Do you know another way?
No! Stop resisting!
It's a breech baby. I'll have to operate.
What did she say? It'll be fine.
Fetch the priest! Calm down.
I'll bring some penicillin tomorrow.
Thank you, but no need. Our herbalist has what we need.
I want to check there are no complications.
Why not? It's a simple request.
Simple for you, but not for us.
If the mother and baby die, you'll be responsible too.
Can I come back tomorrow or not?
Come back at Lauds.
The dawn prayer.
While they pray, I'll let you in. All right.
You're here now?
I'm talking to you. Pliers.
You just woke?
This is bad, really bad.
What were you up to all night?
Gaspard will finish. Get some coffee or a shot of adrenaline.
Go and sleep. You're no use.
I had insomnia. You have insomnia?
Off you go.
You forget our lives no longer belong to us.
I know you've been sad since God summoned our sister two months ago.
But grief is no excuse.
Sister, you've broken one of our rules, that of obedience.
And not for the first time.
Forgive me, Mother.
I've forgiven you before. And I forgive you now.
Do not try our patience again.
You'll stay a week in your cell and take a vow of silence.
Sister Joanna will bring your meals. That's all.
Were you seen? I didn't meet anyone.
I'll need to see the scar.
Let her see the scar.
Tell her to let me.
Sister, let her.
Use the antiseptic twice daily.
May I see the baby?
He's no longer here. What?
Our Mother took him to Zofia's aunt.
Hadn't her family rejected her? Her parents, yes.
But her aunt is pious and has many children.
She'll look after him.
I don't want to.
I don't want to die.
Sister, leave us.
Join me in my office.
We were persecuted by the Germans, then the Russians arrived.
For us, when they... burst into our convent, it was... an indescribable nightmare.
Only God's help will allow us to overcome it.
They stayed here for days.
How many are in that condition?
No, six now that Sister Zofia...
God's help won't be enough.
We're in the hands of Providence.
You need someone qualified.
I can send a Polish Red Cross midwife.
If you do that, our convent will be shut down.
If we're evicted, our girls will be objects of shame.
People will find out.
Everyone will reject them. Many will die.
My duty is to protect our secret.
They'll give birth in... We'll help.
You already said that.
They'll go to Heaven. Good for them.
But I care about life.
No one will enter this convent.
I'll report to my superiors.
Our Mother agrees. I'll look for someone.
No, it has to be you.
I helped in an emergency, but... It must be you!
Or no one.
Here's to the amputees and our failures.
Talk to me. You never say anything.
And girls who never say anything... are a real rarity.
Typical man talk.
I just have nothing to say.
At home, we couldn't talk at dinner or anywhere else.
A Catholic family...
Upper-class... An only daughter.
Not at all. A working-class family.
Die-hard Communist parents.
They funded my studies and when I left to come here, they felt let down.
You see, you're not so silent when you want.
It's the vodka. Your plan's working.
Enough about me. What about you?
A fine upper-class family.
Obviously not very Catholic.
We were either lawyers or doctors.
And since I hate claptrap, I chose medicine.
They're proud of you? They were.
They died in Bergen-Belsen. Luckily, I'm an only son.
I left for London in '40, but not via the Free Zone.
That's what saved me.
I won't return to France after this.
I can go where I want.
Don't you get sick of it?
That permanent stubborn air with me...
Enough doom and gloom.
This is it.
I'll come with you.
I don't want to. Me neither.
I mean it. So do I.
You're too old. Charming...
Not so loud.
You didn't say that the first time!
It's not true. I may be ugly, but I'm not old.
No, you're not that ugly.
Come here. What?
I take that as encouragement, you know.
Help me! How?
I can't help you. Help me!
The more time passes, the better you are in bed.
Communists are like that. Oh, please...
In your opinion, how will the new regime treat the Polish Church?
What the hell do you care?
The Polish Church interests you?
I'm just asking.
I hope they'll piss it off.
And not just the Church, the people too.
That's not very kind.
What have the Poles done to you?
I can't stand them.
They got what they deserved with the Russians and the Germans.
You're very bitter. Maybe I have my reasons.
The only Poles I like were in the Warsaw ghetto.
There's not one of them left.
Shit, my landlords. I'm in trouble if they heard us.
If you agree, we're going to ignore them.
I can no longer reconcile my faith with these terrible events.
God, of whom I still consider myself to be the divine bride, nonetheless wanted this.
If it happened, that means He wanted it.
We cannot know what God wants.
The only truth is His love.
And this life that has been forced into me...
that will soon come forth...
what does He want me to do with it?
Let's kneel, Sister.
We're going to pray.
It's our only consolation.
Your aunt took the child as a gift from God.
She will love him as her own.
I know this is a harsh ordeal.
But it can strengthen your faith and your calling.
The diocese still hasn't found anyone to replace the late Father Piasecki.
As for the vows ceremony, I've postponed it twice. I cannot do it again.
The ceremony will be held two months from now.
In the meantime, some of you will be examined by the young woman who is here with the French Red Cross mission.
She will help you. You must trust her.
If the ceremony is in spring, can we tell our parents?
Sisters, let's return to our duties.
Who will go first?
I'm scared, aren't you?
She can lie down.
Lie down, Sister.
Everything's fine. She can get dressed.
She mustn't be afraid, I'll just check the baby's position.
Don't be afraid. It's to see if the baby's all right.
I don't want to go to Hell.
She fears damnation.
It may seem incomprehensible to the outside world...
Despite what has happened, we must still respect our vow of chastity.
I know they've been abused.
I'm here to help. Tell me how.
It's not easy.
We're not allowed to show our bodies.
And even less be touched. It's a sin.
I took risks to come here.
Can't we set God aside while I examine them?
You don't set God aside.
So what use am I?
I'll try talking to them.
Halt! Soviet army!
Get her out!
I'm a French doctor. She's French.
Search her. You, search the van.
Help them search.
Let me take a look.
You're beautiful, you know.
You're so beautiful!
She loves it!
This'll be wild, I think she wants us all.
What's going on here?
Get back to your posts!
Comrade officer... Her papers!
What are you doing here?
The French Red Cross?
You can go.
Turn back. You can't go this way.
Go on, turn back!
What's wrong? Back up!
No one will bother you here.
I'll let the Abbess know.
Get out of here!
Maria, look after them.
You must look after them. Go on.
You two, that way!
You're hiding enemies of the people.
We're not hiding anyone. We'll check.
You have no right. We'll see.
And the kitchen!
Come on, hurry it up!
Follow me. Faster, I said!
There's no one here. Check the other rooms.
Don't do that.
Do they know the convent is in quarantine?
Typhus. An epidemic.
What's she saying? Typhus?
Yes. She's lying.
There is no typhus.
We have to get out of here. It's very contagious.
Why didn't you alert the authorities?
How can I know if it's the truth?
They can come to the infirmary.
You can go to the infirmary.
We go to the infirmary? No way!
Can I do anything?
Are you unwell?
Thank you for your... presence of mind.
Was she also...
I'll need to examine her.
She'll never let you.
She'd rather put up with her ordeal.
Isn't pride a sin?
She's our Mother.
We cannot judge her, but merely obey her.
However much I pray, I cannot find any consolation.
Every day, I relive what happened. Every day.
I still smell the stench of them.
They came back three times.
Each time, they...
They should have killed us.
It's a miracle they didn't.
I've been luckier than others.
And I'd already known a man in my former life.
Most of my sisters were virgins.
But none have lost their faith?
You know, faith...
At first, you're like a child holding your father's hand, feeling safe.
Then a time comes — and I think it always comes —
when your father lets go.
You're lost, alone in the dark.
You cry out, but no one answers.
Even if you prepare for it,
you're caught unawares.
It hits you right in the heart.
That's the cross we bear.
Behind all joy lies the cross.
Don't abandon us, please!
God bless you.
God bless you for everything.
I'm sorry. Enough!
I don't need an apology.
You're part of a team under my orders.
If you can't bend to discipline, I'll send you home. Maybe you want that?
No, sir, definitely not.
You're a real character. I should jail you.
Sir, it was...
You're lucky the Russians didn't shoot you.
You keep away from that sector.
You ignored orders. You left us a vehicle short.
You're totally reckless.
I'll expect your report. You may go.
The colonel is a right-winger.
The thing is... if he finds out you attend party meetings...
Don't be stupid.
Enough of all this mystery.
Make sure your report is good.
I don't want you sent home. It would really piss me off.
You're kind. Me, kind?
Don't you know me?
Would it really upset you?
Don't go imagining things.
I mean work-wise. You're an excellent assistant.
I don't want to lose you. Even if I know you're a Communist.
Not a party member.
Maybe, but you believe in a brighter tomorrow.
We have to believe. Really?
What's hidden behind that forehead?
My forehead doesn't interest you. No.
What's beneath it does.
There's nothing beneath it.
Any plans for tonight?
I need to sleep. I'm tired.
You're a pitiful liar.
I can't come by day anymore. I'm being watched.
Have a listen.
Without your hands.
It's beating so fast!
They say a rapid heartbeat is a girl.
Probably a girl.
Sister, our Reverend Mother feels unwell.
I have to see the Abbess.
Thank you, Sister.
Do you have a lover in France?
Lots of them. Really?
You're very curious. Yes, I am.
I have many flaws. I deserve the harshest penance.
I've never had much faith.
And since this happened, I've lost the little I had.
I shouldn't be here.
So why don't you leave?
I have no family left, apart from the bigoted aunt who sent me here.
After the delivery, I'll go to find my fiancé, wherever he may be.
You have a fiancé?
Yes, I keep thinking about him, but can't tell anyone.
I'd be punished.
Is he the Russian soldier who got you in this condition?
He defended me from the others.
He protected me. He even fought them.
He stopped them from killing us.
Excuse me. Can you come with me?
Get dressed and go back to your cell.
Mother, let her examine you.
There are lesions. I'll do a test to be sure.
It's advanced syphilis.
I can get the medicine to treat it.
I don't need you to treat it.
What if several births occur at once?
I know. I'm scared of that happening.
We've been scared for five years.
For us nuns, the end of the war doesn't mean the end of fear.
The new regime won't do us any favors.
Haven't you ever feared for your life?
When I joined the Red Cross team, I was still a student.
I ended up carrying stretchers under fire when Paris was liberated.
Sorry, but I pissed myself more than once.
But I've never regretted it.
And I imagined I would save lives.
Novice Irena is in a good mood.
How can a baby arrive like that?
Without us realizing?
An extreme defensive reaction.
The body resists and no one can guess her condition, not even the patient herself.
Could there be others?
What are we going to do?
How should I know?
I'll notify the Abbess. Don't disturb her now.
I have to inform her of each birth.
She takes the babies to the adopters.
I don't think she realizes how fragile a newborn is.
It's my duty to obey.
You have a higher duty...
Protecting this child's life.
I should lie to her? Through omission.
Not for long. Heaven will thank you.
It's easy for a non-believer to talk of Heaven.
We have to feed her.
Novice Ludwika rejected her.
You can wear this. Is it yours?
I arrived here in that dress. It's pretty.
I was stylish then.
I liked men and men liked me.
Don't you ever regret it?
Faith is twenty-four hours of doubt and one minute of hope.
At first, I found the discipline hard to take.
I know happiness isn't the goal that we pursue but...
without the war... without the horror that has struck us...
I could say I'm happy.
I don't know.
What are you lacking?
You want to convert me?
It's an honest question.
No one can really answer that.
No one in the outside world.
I haven't always had good news for you here, but this will delight you.
We pack up and leave at the end of the month.
The luckier ones will return to good old France.
The others, me included, are transferred to Berlin, to the French sector.
Don't ask me why. I have no idea. Those are the orders.
Sir... Lehmann, you go with me.
It's not that, but perhaps it's too soon to end our mission.
Will you miss it? No, sir.
Have we recovered all our wounded? Affirmative.
Despite Soviet harassment, mission accomplished.
Satisfied now? Yes, sir.
We part ways at the end of the month.
You'll return to your folks that you must miss so much.
Maybe you don't give a damn...
but I can't help thinking we won't meet again.
We'll write. Yes, of course.
You don't like postcards?
I've never seen you cry. I didn't think you could.
Put my mind at rest... It's not because we have to part?
You can trust me, you know.
Talk to me.
Keep your secrets. I'm going to dance.
It's so heavy!
Mathilde Beaulieu, please. It's urgent.
Samuel, I need you.
What's going on?
Just listen. Come on.
I haven't come alone.
Fear not, I'm here to help you.
This is Dr. Samuel Lehmann.
Yes, I'm Jewish.
There are a few of us left.
Now that's settled, where are the patients?
He'll keep your secret.
How many doctors will you bring? I wasn't expecting him.
Don't you realize the danger?
We can talk here for hours.
Women are suffering and in danger.
I'm not baptized, I won't go to Heaven, but I'm a doctor.
I don't need this. If we're unwelcome, say so and we'll leave.
That suits me.
If someone had told me I'd end up delivering Polish nuns knocked up by Soviet grunts...
How long will this last?
They pray three times at the Angelus.
It's all right.
Not just yet.
Tell her to keep breathing deeply.
Come and see Novice Ludwika's baby.
Pretty, isn't she?
Her name's Helena.
That's the name I chose. She'll be baptized.
Her name's Helena.
I think you have to go.
Can you hold her?
I'll take her to Ludwika's family tomorrow.
And then I'll tell our Mother the truth.
Come to my office.
Please, punish me rather than Ludwika.
She didn't lie, she isn't even aware she gave birth.
It's entirely my fault. No.
You're lying for that French woman.
I was right to be wary of her. She has brought scandal and disorder.
Forgive me, but scandal and disorder were already here.
I looked for her, but I couldn't find her...
Who? Help me, Sister!
I don't understand.
We have to go. Where?
She'll die. Helena will die.
Let's go to your cell.
I beseech You to open the gates of Your kingdom to me, to give me the courage to follow the path I have chosen...
to help me bear this heavy cross.
Do you have sugar to make hot drinks for the mothers?
I'll go and see. Thank you.
Are you okay?
It's not your fault.
You did what you had to do. The rest is destiny.
You know... not many could've done what you did.
Even more qualified people would have panicked.
What is it? Someone's here.
God protect you.
I have some very bad news.
Sister Zofia is dead.
She passed away yesterday. I'm sorry.
Oh, my God!
Sister Zofia made these for the baby.
All my children are grown.
But the baby...
May God protect you.
Mother, I beseech you, tell me the truth.
What did you do with the child?
What I had to. Meaning?
I entrusted him to God.
I don't understand! You don't?
Don't you believe in Providence?
I believe it embraced those children.
What did you do? What I could!
I want to be alone! Get out!
Sister, I think Irena is giving birth.
Make an effort.
Don't be afraid.
A little more.
Sister, a little more, please.
It's silly. I keep thinking in a few days, you'll forget me.
I wish I could say as much.
You're getting sentimental.
Been drinking? No.
It's silly, but I fear you'll forget me.
Let's bet on it.
May I butt in?
Last night, I found the answer to the question tormenting me.
I'm a mother.
I always will be.
He's my child.
He has a right to my love.
What does that mean?
It means I shall pursue my vocation differently.
God will guide me.
I owe you so much.
I'll never forget that.
I've had an idea.
Listen to us for a minute.
These orphans live on the streets.
You could take them in.
That way, no one will wonder where your babies come from.
You can keep them and raise them without fear.
But our Mother has found families for all the babies.
Mother, speak, please.
I wanted to spare you shame and dishonor.
I damned myself to save you.
Got a cigarette?
Here. Thank you.
And your child?
They'll take good care of him.
I wouldn't have known how.
I want to forget all that.
I want to live.
Three months later
What can I do for you?
Dear Mathilde, The dark clouds have moved on.
The sun shines brightly in our sky.
And you are in our hearts.
Perhaps other wars will come.
Other dangers threaten us.
It will soon be harder to write to each other.
But whatever fate awaits us, I feel ready to face it.
I know, even if it makes you laugh, that God sent you.
May He accompany you in your trials and may you always be joyful.