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Farmington Hills Loses Luminary Whose Activism Was Shaped by Auschwitz

Zenona “Sonia” Raczkowski was a passionate fighter for legal, fair and reasonable immigration and other human rights causes.

Zenona “Sonia” Raczkowski died June 11 at the age of 84. (Photo: McCabe Funeral Home)
Zenona “Sonia” Raczkowski died June 11 at the age of 84. (Photo: McCabe Funeral Home)

Farmington Hills lost one of its luminaries last week with the death of Polish immigrant Zenona “Sonia” Raczkowski, who as a youngster was sent to a sub-camp outside a notorious Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp.

Throughout her life, the 84-year-old community activist fought for fairness and justice for all people,the Detroit Free Press reports. She was a leader in the state’s Polish-American community whose experiences as a young child deepened her understanding and appreciation for the cost of freedom, the newspaper said.

Her obituary on the McCabe Funeral Home web site notes:

“Sonia was a powerful force, a woman of immense energy and compassion. Sonia will be greatly missed by her family and by everyone whose life she touched. The warmth of her smile, her energy and her marvelous work ethic will linger on in their hearts and minds for many years to come.”

The Rev. Brian Chabala, the priest at St. Fabian Catholic Church, where a Funeral Mass will be held Saturday, wrote on the funeral home web site that Ms.Raczkowski was “tough, spirited, deeply reverent and madly in love with her family.”

Her son, A. Rocky Raczkowski, told the Free Press that his mother “will be dearly missed.

“She touched a lot of people with what she did in the community, especially a lot of young people,” he said.

A special passion was the Polish Scouting Organization and Ms. Raczkowski was “always focused on helping young people and teaching them about how to achieve their dreams,” her son said.

Ms. Raczkowski, who died June 11 at her Farmington Hills home, was 9 when her father, a Polish army officer, was captured by Nazis and held as a war prisoner. She and her mother lived in seclusion for several years and were eventually sent to the camp near Auschwitz, where they lived for  two years there before the camp was liberated by allied forces in early 1945.

Her son said the experiences there ignited a passion that would burn throughout her life as an advocate for fair and legal immigration.

After the war, she finished high school and was accepted to the Jagielonski University Medical School in Krakow. After receiving her medical degree in 1960, her parents surprised her with a trip to the United States, where she met Bogdan Raczkowski, according to the obituary. They married in 1962, and he preceded her in death in 2002.

Ms. Raczkowski resumed her medical career in her adopted homeland, and began working at Sinai Hospital as a surgical assistant in 1967. In 2007, she was honored by Detroit Medical Center for more than 40 years’ service.

Following her retirement, she became involved in the “New Detroit” Committee on Immigration, fighting passionately for fair and reasonable immigration policies, according to the obituary.

Rocky Raczkowski called his mother, who was involved in numerous civic and humanitarian organizations, a “servant leader” who shared her value system with him and his brother, Waldemar, who also survives.

Three grandchildren also survive.

Visitation is from 2-9 p.m. Friday at the funeral home. A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Fabian Catholic Church in Farmington Hills, with burial immediately following at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield.

Memorial contributions may be made to the youth scouting organization PYO/ZHP at 35126 Glengary Circle, Farmington Hills, MI 48331.

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