Ilona Becker
GLOBAL FIRST PRIZE WINNER: Butterfly Wings Against the Wind – Everyday Challenges We Face




The local news station just announced a winter storm advisory for the state of Illinois. Another 8-10 inches of snow is expected for the region. Ilona was working in her soft, inviting home office, when the news came across. "I better cancel all my appointments" Ilona mumbled. She launched her new venture not long ago, after the sharp decline in real estate. She always wanted to do something big, something remarkable, with people - that's what she knew best. Successfully matching people to houses for fourteen years was her previous business. But now at age 53, she decided to pursue her dream, matching people to people. "Finding love is my business" You would often hear her say. She is passionate about serving people's needs. She has a great sense of knowing who belongs to whom. She herself was single for many, many years, struggling to find the one. She saw a window of opportunity and she leaped. Catch Me a Catch Matchmaking and Coaching Service was born. Ilona is working with busy high-end professionals, finding them the perfect match. She is in demand, as people crave to be loved. 

She picks up the phone and starts dialing the numbers, she cancels all her appointments. "What a great day to stay in" she mumbles again, looking out at the spectacular snowfall. Soft creaks from the fireplace remind her what a great, comfortable life she has. "Today is my time" she decides. The dazzling surroundings bring joy to her. Watching the dense, fluffy snowfall, Ilona reflects. For a moment she is back in Transylvania, her old country of Romania, remembering the winter in the magnificent Carpathian Mountains. What a long way she has come from. 




If you had met Ilona as an eight-year-old in Transylvania, in 1963, when she was on her knees in a field, her pudgy little fingers searching the dark earth as a potato picker, you'd get a perfect picture of the average life she could expect in Romania labeled as a second class citizen because of her Hungarian heritage. With her back bent over by the burdens of that time, you 'd think it impossible that she would not only escape those economic conditions and the Ceausescu dictatorship that had created the environment for such poverty; but, because of her love for the daughter she would later have, she'd save not only her daughter but herself from the bad luck of geography, ethnicity and politics. 

"Rumors were our only guides to freedom. There were the rumors of refugees making it across the border at night. Some dug under the border. Others escaped to Austria by swimming across Neusiedler Sea, a lake on the line between Austria and Hungary. And others floated suspended under balloons at night. There were even rumors of women hiding in the wheels of planes. But rumors were all they were. There were also the rumors of those who didn't make it. Some turned into a bloody mist after stepping on land mines" 

A few like Ilona braved the police and attempted escape; if caught she faced imprisonment at the least. It was all with her might that she kept herself from running out of that train station in August of 1986 after nearly being recognized as a potential escapee putting herself on the mercy of the Romanian Securitate. If not for the fact, Ilona was taking her daughter to a freedom in America that she could only imagine, she was sure she wouldn't have had the wherewithal to make it. Such is the strength of love and devotion. Beginning with a dream seeded as a child, while reading Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser, and brought to fruition through the love bond of a mother for her daughter. She escaped to Vienna with her daughter by forging her passport and survived by waiting tables at a nearby hotel while she waited for asylum in the United States. Eventually through church sponsorship, she arrived in America. After a short stay with the family that sponsored Ilona and her daughter, they moved to Detroit in 1987. 

By persisting through a number of challenges refugees and immigrants confront when arriving in the United States, such as poverty and lack of fluency in the common language of English, she was able to achieve what could only have been an unhealthy fantasy in her birthplace of Romania. All through that voyage, she had searched for guidance. Her only answer was that offered by God through hints, angels in human form, and what we often like 
to call "luck". But how does luck come about? 


Professional Challenges


Starting her new life in America, at age 32, was far more than challenging. Not having any friends or relatives made it almost impossible to survive. She was responsible for her seven-year-old daughter by providing education, shelter and guidance, yet she herself was lacking the same. Not speaking the English language, not knowing her legal rights, not knowing anything about the new land, was a huge obstacle. How she is going to manage her life? " 

In her darkest moments, she asked herself "Was my early dream of freedom too elusive?" Somehow she managed to get off the ground, by determination, putting herself through school, learning English, always dreaming of a better life. With hard work over several years, learning basic English and other skills, she managed to get her certificate in Medical Assisting. She landed her first real job in a Doctor's office. But new challenges arose daily such as reading the doctor's handwriting. "Oh Mighty God", I often prayed. "How am I going to assimilate to this culture?" 

But as if written, Ilona pooled it together by listening to others, learning with her ears and eyes, assimilating. The reward was sweet, and she wanted more. A few years later, after more study and intense work, she obtained her Real Estate license in the state of Michigan, dedicating herself to help people finding their dream home. By that time she was heading for the stars. Not only did her first home provide a place to live, it gave her another taste of adventure. She learned from her investor clients how to invest in real estate, and she did invest. Yet she wanted more, she learned to play the Stock Market, finding that success never comes easy or cheap. She craved to learn more, she stretched her limits. She was determined to explore her freedom. The 32 years of leaving in hell helped her develop a desire to travel freely, wanting to learn about different cultures. So she traveled, but not just anywhere, but to faraway places, like China, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Africa, and many more. "How is that possible", would someone ask? "That a single mother with a lack of much knowledge, in a short time can achieve as many things as Ilona did?"

Ilona is currently writing a book about her escape, "For my Daughter's 
Freedom" Escaping Ceausescu's Romania.


As a matchmaker Ilona appeared on a local Morning TV Show, evening Radio talk shows. She was also quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Travel Magazine, Chicago Sun-Times, and in Rockford Women's Magazine.




Personal Challenges


Ilona was ready to face the next chapter of her life; finding a husband. is it a well-known fact that people function better when they have a loving, supportive partner. Few things have a greater impact on our financial future, lifestyle, and standard of living than whom we choose to marry. Now that her daughter moved out, Ilona felt the need for a life partner. At the age 50, we all know what the chances are. Not that she has not dated before, but for some reason either the timing or the circumstances were not favorable, hence she never found the right one. She posted her personal profile online, on one of the on-line dating services, hoping to find someone. After many, many dates and disappointments, the search finally paid off. She met a guy who seemed genuinely interested in her, and she pursued a courtship with him. Five months later they got engaged, and were married in the same year 2005. 
Transitioning from single to married life was not easy. Adjusting and learning about each other without losing each other's identity was extremely hard and a great personal challenge, to remain loving and understanding even when the hormones are dictating otherwise.


Ilona is able to manage harmony and balance in her marriage. As a matchmaker she knows better, she teaches her clients the same. 


"Is it luck or destiny?" Ilona often asks herself, "to have a loving, 
supportive husband, a rich, adventurous life and butterfly wings stronger than the winds."