Running towards a better place

Aliyah from the Ukraine

Ilya came to Israel from the Ukraine with his family when he was nine. The family had only discovered that they were Jewish the year before.   They immediately started becoming observant and preparing to move to Israel. Ilya had been enjoying a happy childhood, running around outside with his friends.  He was very upset about leaving his friends and his way of life behind.

When he got to Israel, he spent all his time indoors, fighting with his siblings. He refused to go out unless forced. At school, he stayed at the back of the classroom and refused to engage.  However, he had a natural aptitude for languages and quickly became fluent in Hebrew.

Ilya’s parents sign him for a running club

Back in the Ukraine, Ilya had spent most of the week playing sports and running around with his friends outside- even in the winter. Ilya’s parents decided that the most important thing was that he should get fit and active again instead of hanging around at home all the time. They signed him up for a local junior running club, and almost pushed him out the door.

Despite himself, Ilya loved it. The club held sessions twice a week, but soon that wasn’t enough. Ilya would run every day, and he would push himself to run further and further each time. He started joining online runners’ forums and following their advice, even though it was aimed at adults, not 11-year-olds. He changed his eating habits and refused to eat sugar or carbs.

Ilya became even more introverted

His parents had hoped that the running club would open Ilya up to making friends and help him burn off his energy so that he’d be less aggressive at home. But it didn’t work that way. Instead, Ilya became even more introverted, recording his splits obsessively. He was spending as much time as possible running around the streets by himself. When he was at home, he seemed, if anything, even angrier, and would pick fights over nothing with whoever was near him. Ilya’s parents started to try to discourage him from running so much, to interest him in other activities. But Ilya refused point-blank to do any of it.

Ilya joins a Kav L’Noar School Group

At school, Ilya was still silent. His homeroom teacher recommended that he join the 8th grade Kav L’Noar group, to see if that might help him integrate better into school life. Ilya’s parents were excited to sign the registration forms- writing that he needed to break his addiction to running and become a normal kid like their other children.

I just can’t get over this fury. It’s like a fire in me

However, when the group mentor, Oren, spoke to Ilya privately to see what he hoped to achieve, Ilya didn’t say any of that. He didn’t mention the running or his unofficial label of the quietest student in the grade.

Ilya said that he felt like he was burning up with rage all the time, and it was exhausting. He was angry with his siblings for adapting to life in Israel so easily and betraying all their former friends. He was angry with his parents for turning everything they raised him to believe upside down. And he was angry with himself for- well he wasn’t really sure for what- but in any case, it was all-consuming. Ilya said, “I really don’t have any energy left to talk to people, to make friends. People think I’m a weirdo but I’m not.  I just can’t get over this fury. It’s like a fire in me and it’s burning up everything.”

The Kav L’Noar School Group mentor Oren decides to focus on what Ilya needs

Oren decided to put everything else that he had heard from Ilya’s parents and school to one side and to focus only on what Ilya said he needed. He had the boys do an exercise at the beginning of every session.  They went around saying what had made them happy and what had made them angry that week. The answers of the other boys would vary every time, but Ilya’s was always the same. But saying it, over and over, seemed to help take the sting out a little.

In their one on one sessions, Oren would encourage Ilya to talk about his former life, what he missed, his longing. He would also encourage him to vent about his family. In the early weeks, Ilya would just talk and talk and talk about what he disliked, his frustrations, his grief.

But as time went on, without being prompted he began to mention more positive reflections.  Ilya admired his mother for getting a good job at the university. He noticed his brother had some really nice friends and he was a bit jealous. As the months went by, and the other boys shared their stories, they all worked through their various issues together.  Ilya started to connect to experiences beyond his own anger.  He started to make freinds.

Ilya still loves running but he has moved on to a better place

Ilya is still very quiet and he still loves running- he dreams of representing Israel one day. But thanks to Oren and the group, he is in a much better place than he was. He no longer fights with his siblings and parents at the slightest provocation. Ilya feels like he has finally had the chance to process how his life has changed, and now he’s ready to move on to the next stage.

Click to read more about our unique therapy and mentoring  and school mentoring programs. #beyondtheclinic

*All names and identifying details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.

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