As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Monique Illona was shaped by her parents’ pain and anguish. “My parents were traumatized and their experiences traumatized me and my siblings,” Illona said. “They didn’t have the opportunity or resources to learn how to deal with their problems.”
She, however, did. Her recently published book, “A Dual Path: Sacred Practices and Bodywork,” describes her path from pain, bitterness and anger, “the energetic matrix I inherited from my parents,” to an awakened life of transformation and sacredness.
She also offers a blueprint for how the integration of bodywork (massage) and spiritual practices can help one achieve a life that cultivates inner stability, connection and strength.
Illona’s parents met in Paris after World War II. Her French mother had survived the war by hiding in Paris and her Czechoslavakian father had survived Auschwitz. They first lived in Paris, but her father could not get a work permit. They applied for visas in three countries, America, Australia and England. The visa to Australia came through first. Her two brothers were born there, but the family eventually settled in England where Illona was born in 1960.
Judaism was a foundation for her growing up. She and her brothers attended weekly Hebrew school, but her parents were conflicted about how to integrate Judaism with raising a family. “My father came out of the Holocaust believing there wasn’t really a God,” she said. One of her brothers wanted to have a traditional Jewish family life, which caused huge arguments at home. “My brother kind of won and we did do Passover and Shabbat and always went to synagogue for the High Holidays,” she said. Her brothers still lead actively Jewish lives.
When Illona was 12, her father discovered that his sister had survived the war and lived in Israel. She accompanied her parents on their first trip there and fell in love with the country. She went back every year from the age of 13 during summer vacations to volunteer at various kibbutzim or to do work study programs.
“A Dual Path” enables others to shorten their own paths from a painful to a more vibrant and meaningful existence.
Once she finished school, she joined an ulpan on a kibbutz to learn the language. She ended up staying, joining the Israeli Defense Forces and becoming a member of a kibbutz in the Golan Heights. “My connection to Israel became stronger than my connection to Judasim,” she said.
She married in Israel and she and her American husband lived in a kibbutz made up of three or four “garinim” (groups of people who serve in the army together and then go to the same community to help build and establish it). Her husband fought in the 1982 Lebanon War in Beirut; many of their fellow kibbutz members died in that war. She and her husband, who are now divorced, decided to leave Israel and give it a go in the U.S.
She completed a B.F.A. at the School of Visual Arts in New York and earned a Masters degree at Lesley University in Expressive Therapies. It was during this program that she began to examine herself and to understand the connection between the legacy she had inherited and the life she had been leading.
She started learning things her parents never had the chance to. “There was something in me that was strong, clear and focused. I realized I could go forward in a whole different direction,” she said, adding, “It was like giving up caffeine. I rejected who I had been until that time.”
Illona was also a self-defense instructor and an inductee into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame. She met her soulmate and professional partner Blane Allen in 1990 when his martial arts school moved into the building where she lived and worked as a sculptor. They have offered professional massage bodywork since 1991, and created “Hand in Hand Massage” in Marblehead.
At their teaching facility, The Dual Path Institute™, located next door to Hand in Hand, they offer events, programs and workshops for massage professionals and the general public for personal transformation and professional growth. They also travel the country and the globe with their trainings and public speaking.
Illona wanted to write “A Dual Path” to enable others to shorten their own paths from a painful to a more vibrant and meaningful existence. “Once you have enough strength, it’s so much easier. I really feel we have that choice every day in every moment.”
Visit handinhandmassage. com and adualpathpath.com or call 781-639-4380.