MATKA / POLKA [MOTHER / POLE] is a meditation on what it means to be a woman in today’s Polish society. As a collection of stories – all verbatim – from waiting rooms, gynaecology chairs, abortion clinics, and bedrooms, the documentary bears witness to everyday acts of patriarchy and systemic violence. Adopting a poetic visual language, MATKA / POLKA breaks the taboo around the experiences, emotions and identity of Polish women who have faced the country's strict reproductive policy and social prejudices to make decisions about their own life and body.

Our Take – Small Axe Radical Short Film Reviews by Cole Diment

Joanna Suchomska’s MATKA/POLKA (MOTHER/POLE) introduces us to the stories of Polish women’s reproductive rights under a religious, conservative state. At the beginning of 2021, Andrej Duda’s conservative, religious, right-wing-populist party Law and Justice changed the Act on Pregnancy Planning to curtail to right of women seeking abortion to those as a result of a criminal act or for a woman whose health is at risk. Poland’s decision has only recently been accorded with in the USA with the repealing of Roe vs Wade in recent weeks. The present for women rights in these countries seems stark. 

And stark is how this landscape is represented in MATKA/POLKA. Suchomska deals with this issue in a profound, engaging way. Rather than reproduce the violence women’s rights has endured within the film’s visuals, Suchomska opts for a poetic and cerebral account of women’s experiences of sexual medicine in Poland. We find ourselves placed in a bleak autumnal/winter landscape paired with moody shots of beds, corridors, rooms (no doubt metaphors for institutional confinement). The atmosphere of the film acts as a substitute for the bleakness of women’s rights whilst also turning pain into art, a cathartic remedy, an alleviation. Yet at the same time it allows for absorption and contemplation within the spectator given its drawn out tone. Thus the two elements represent and allow us to momentarily inhabit a similar psychic space; a supremely ethical encounter. 

Perhaps the most striking element of the film is the singular narrative voice that weaves together this stream of consciousness. Rather than represent each woman’s story with a different voice, one voice relays the stories to us. In this way the stories have a way of bleeding into one another, catching you by surprise when one fades into another. Here, then, we are being told that women’s stories, though separate and individual, blend together in their common origin and experience. With one voice there seems a strength and this strength may hold potential for the future. 

Jo has asked that we link you to The Abortion Support Network and its Polish counterpart for further reading:

The Abortion Support Network (website: 

for Polish speakers, Aborcyjny Dream Team (website: 

  /  2022
Joanna Suchomska
14:45 mins
Original Language Polish
Joanna Suchomska