Damien Windsor was an inmate at Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kansas when he made an unexpected and unforgettable connection with a then 86-year-old Holocaust Survivor named Sonia Warshawski, aka Big Sonia. Small in stature but big in spirit, she was a guest speaker at a weekly group meeting he attended through Reaching Out From Within, a non-profit organization founded in 1982 by SuEllen Fried that supports prison rehabilitation programs. Today, over five years later, Damien still feels the hope-filled impact that Sonia, now 91, had on him. Here he eloquently recounts the power of the “Sonia Effect”, in his own words.
My experience meeting Big Sonia was, to say the least, inspiring and uplifting. For me, it was an example of understanding the value of hope and forgiveness and using the past, not as a reminder of where you’ve come from and the tragedies that you’ve been through, but as a catalyst to persevere through those hardships and come out on the other side of them as a better person. What I found so encouraging about Big Sonia wasn’t just the incredible strength that she had to display to survive the Holocaust, but more importantly, her determination to share her experience in an effort to contribute and influence others to shed the weight of the past and have hope for a better tomorrow.
Throughout our time on earth we all must come to the realization that we cannot escape adversity in our lives. This is just a fact of humanity. But, as Big Sonia has shown, that doesn’t mean that those adversities and misfortunes don’t have positive worth. The past can be extremely painful, but that pain can be immensely valuable if you choose to make it so. It can utilized and developed into tools for growth, compassion, and understanding. It can be applied to the daunting task of changing others’ lives and used as proof to the rest of the world that the human spirit can persist through any tragedy. Big Sonia is the living embodiment of optimism and it’s an honor to have met her and share her story.
Ellsworth Correctional Facility
Furthering the “Sonia Effect”
Damien’s meeting with Sonia Warshawski at Lansing Correctional Facility is featured in “Big Sonia“, the award-winning documentary about her life. Below are screen shots from these emotionally powerful scenes.
She and the small but mighty team behind the film, led by Sonia’s granddaughter, Leah Warshawski, an accomplished filmmaker, need a groundswell of support to help get “Big Sonia” to theaters from coast to coast so the impact of the “Sonia Effect” can be felt by as many people as possible. So please support their crowdfunding campaign by pledging and/or sharing.