Experiences that enlighten people and inspire them to push onwards despite life’s biggest challenges are stories that are always worth telling. By listening to these stories, people find the strength and the courage to rise up and fight another day. Such is the story that motivational speaker, best-selling author, and master transformational life coach Ilona Parunakova brings to the table when she connects with audiences and her personal clients. Hers is a story of tenacity, faith, and a long family history of surviving some of history’s bloodiest wars.
Born to a half Ukrainian mother and half Armenian father in the Republic of Georgia, Ilona’s relatives lived to tell the horrific tales of war, from the Ottoman genocide of the Armenian people during World War I to the uneventful collapse of the Soviet Union. The parents of her great-grandmother were slaughtered mercilessly before the latter’s eyes. Her great-grandmother fled on foot to survive. Between 1991 to 1993, Ilona witnessed the downfall of the Soviet Union and the war that broke in her home country.
Apart from surviving the terrors of war, Ilona also endured ethnic discrimination for a considerable amount of time. She grew up in a community where she was considered a minority. She suffered rejection from her own grandparents, was mocked by her relatives, and was denied admission to universities. At that time in her life, Ilona felt like a reject and an outcast as a result of the massive political discrepancies between Russia and Georgia back then. Throughout that discouraging season in her life, Ilona fought her hardest to stay strong and found the inspiration to pursue further studies and accomplish exceptional feats.
Ilona is the author of the best-selling book Opium of the Almond Tree. She is also a certified personal fitness trainer, certified nutritionist, and health coach. After finishing a degree in Business Administration, she is a candidate for a PhD in Christian Counseling program.
Furthermore, Ilona received the People’s Choice Award in a beauty pageant in the Republic of Georgia in 1998. She also collected medals for completing a marathon in 2017 and triathlon in 2018. Interestingly, Ilona can also speak seven languages, including English, Russian, Armenian, Georgian, and Spanish, among others.
Ilona is a proud TEDx international speaker and brings a lot of encouragement to her audiences whenever she walks up the stage. Empowering people to find their voice even in the darkest times of their life is something that she is very passionate about. Knowing that there are a lot of people out there who choose to suffer in silence, Ilona hopes to impart courage and self-confidence so that they, too, can experience liberty in all of its glory.
Her Christian faith has been very instrumental in her survival. It also allowed her to see things from a positive perspective—that no matter what happens, God will always be in control of her destiny. Reaching out to others like her who experienced the intergenerational trauma of war and the challenges that come with being multicultural has allowed her to live out her real purpose in life. In the end, all of her pain was worth it because it means being able to help others overcome their own.