For years, Sonia Warshawski (91) has been an inspirational public speaker at schools and prisons, where her stories of surviving the Holocaust as a teenager have inspired countless people who once felt their own traumas would leave them broken forever. "Big Sonia" explores what it means to be a survivor and how intergenerational trauma affects families and generations.
Special | 56m 45s | WETA Passport
Preview: Special | 2m
Preview: Special | 30s
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About the Show
Standing tall at 4’8”, Sonia is one of the last remaining Holocaust survivors in Kansas City and one of the only survivors there who speaks publicly about her wartime experience. Sonia’s enormous personality and fragile frame mask the horrors she endured. At 15, she watched her mother disappear behind gas chamber doors. Sonia’s teenage years were a blur of concentration camps and death marches. On liberation day, she was accidentally shot through the chest, yet again miraculously survived.
Sonia is the ultimate survivor, a bridge between cultures and generations. Her story must never be forgotten.
Our film interweaves Sonia’s past and present using first-person narrative with stories from family and friends. Along the way, we learn valuable life lessons – “Soniaisms” – from a woman who can barely see over the steering wheel, yet insists on driving herself to work every day to run her late husband’s tailor shop, John’s Tailoring. Running the shop is Sonia’s entire being – it is her reason for living and the center of her life. Sonia is a “diva” and she’s known for wearing leopard print and high heel shoes – she is the most popular woman I know. Her influence spans generations and cultures, and we see first-hand how she transforms a room of self-involved teenagers into thoughtful citizens. Sonia is an enigma.
Now, John’s Tailoring is the last shop standing in a desolate corner of a rundown mall, and there is a looming threat the mall could close its doors any day. Will Sonia be able to continue working? Will she have to shut the doors on John’s Tailoring and finally retire in her late 80’s? How will Sonia’s stories make a difference to people now? How will her stories inspire audiences to learn about their own families and ensure that we don’t repeat mistakes of the past?
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