Linda Movie Review: BIG SONIA

Big Sonia Review by Linda Ruiz

“I won’t forgive but I will not hate. It will destroy me and I will not be like them”

Sonia Warshawski is a 91 year old Holocaust Survivor and also a teacher about the power of love. She will not forgive what was done to her, her family and her people, but she refuses to let hate in her heart. It was the hatred of a skinhead who  refuted that the Holocaust happened that prompted her to start visiting schools and prisons to tell her story.

Her story is a bit different from other Holocaust Survivor stories that we learned about in school or heard about first-hand. Sonia actually survived not one concentration camp but three. At the age of 19, after 6 years of survival, her liberation came almost at the cost of her life. The prisoners in her camp hearing the arrival of the of the English military, started running for the gates. Sonia was hit by a stray bullet that pierced her chest narrowly missing her heart, and exiting right above her lung.

Sonia went on to get married and have children. She and her husband kept their experiences from them until they were adults. Her husband would talk about his time in the camp in a joking matter. His children marveled at how he can make light of such a dire situation, but Sonia never spoke about hers.

Not until many decades later when the words from that skinhead hit her like a thunderbolt. Sonia realized she was one of the last survivors in Kansas City, and that’s when her mission began. Accompanied by her daughter she visits middle schools and high schools. She tells her story in great detail including the beatings, the starvation and the absolute cruelty of the SS guards.

It’s when she speaks to the adolescent’s in small groups, and they share with her their pain, their fears, you know she has reached them. Sonia has planted the seed of love in their hearts. Sonia also speaks to prisoners in these small groups. To see their reaction to what this tiny woman survived is truly remarkable.

As one prisoner said, my number is on my shirt, hers is tattooed on her arm. For her not to hate or be angry makes me think I can change my life as well. These prisoners, some who have been incarcerated for decades, are looking forward to their parole hearings. They are going to face the parole board with a new attitude, one of change, positively and love in their heart. They are looking forward to starting life anew.

That is the mission of Sonia Warshawski. Big Sonia, who is 91, about 4”5, to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble. She is the embodiment of The Optimist Creed.

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