The heartbreaking story of an Irish woman’s journey to find the son that was taken from her as a baby has been made into a major film starring James Bond actress Judi Dench.
Philomena Lee fell pregnant at 19 years old in the early 50s, and after being disowned by her family, she was sent to a convent where she gave birth to a baby boy she named Anthony.
Philomena was allowed to see her baby for just one hour a day for three years, until he was taken from her and given to an American family for adoption.
Lee, now 80, still recalls the day her baby boy was taken from her and she had to watch him be placed in the back of a car and driven out of her life forever: “In my dreams that moment still comes back to me,” she says. “I see his little face looking through the rear windscreen – I’ve relived it so many times.”
“I cried out his name, and I didn’t stop crying for two weeks.”
Mother Superior said she would ‘burn in hell’
Lee was told by the Mother Superior at the convent that she would ‘burn in hell’ if she ever revealed her ‘shameful secret’. She was forced to sign a pledge of surrender and no one would ever tell her where her son had been taken.
Anthony grew up to be a successful attorney and influential man in US politics. He travelled back to Ireland in search of his mother, but was unable to trace her after the nuns at the convent where he was born refused to help him.
Philomena travelled to America to find her son
In the end he accepted he would never find his mother, but left her a chance of one day finding him. In his will, he stated that he wanted his remains to be buried in the gardens of the convent where his mother was sent, knowing that if she ever tried to search for him, then she would find him there.
Tragically despite his professional success, Philomena’s son died at the age of 43.
However, Philomena did travel to America with her daughter in hope of finding her son. With the help of writer Martin Sixsmith, she managed to trace her son back to his resting place, the convent where she gave birth to him.
‘At least now I know he is at peace’
Sixsmith wrote a book about Philomena’s story named ‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee’ and that is the basis for the new film ‘Philomena’ starring Dame Judi Dench in the title role.
Lee has seen the film twice and said; “the first time was stressful but the second time I enjoyed it. For years, I couldn’t talk about my life to anybody. And now it is all anyone wants to talk about,”
Speaking about Dench’s portrayal of her in the film she said: “She got me to a T – I felt I had known her all my life.”
Reflecting on her story Lee said: “I would have given anything to have Anthony here beside me, but the worst thing all those years was the not knowing. At least now I know that he is at peace and because of that, I, too, can have peace in my heart.”
The film will be released on the 1st November and also stars Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith, watch the trailer here.