The 23-year-old girl with the Cleopatra haircut sat by the side of the road smoking a cigarette, completely unaware of the scratches on her face and the blood on her torn clothes. It was Oct. 21, 1968, and Ilona Casky had just crawled, clawed and climbed her way across the Yugoslavian border into Italy. She’d been on the road for 11 days, jumping from trains, hitchhiking and walking for miles to escape Communist Hungary. Her friend had already been caught and would spend six years in jail. Casky, too, was imprisoned for days before spending 10 months in an Italian immigration camp.
Finally, in August of 1969, Casky made it to the United States—completely alone, speaking only broken English and weighing just 85 pounds. But she found help from the Hungarian-American community, and then found a job and a husband. In 1982, she opened Ilona Bio-Aesthetics in Wayne. That evolved into Harmonia Healing Spa, which she now runs with her daughters. “As in life, you take the good and leave the bad,” says Casky.