Meet Odile Zelenak

Today we’d like to introduce you to Odile Zelenak.

Odile, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to move my body — cartwheels, somersaults, backbends, and splits. I loved them all. I loved the way they felt. I love the power and smoothness I felt in my skin. Loved the way it felt to have my flexible muscles and skin move over my bones as I stretched, leaped, sprung and bounded. I loved the feeling of my bones moving within the taffy-like membrane of my skin. I couldn’t articulate it at the age of 5 or 6, so instead, I just did it for hours – literally hours. My love of movement grew into gymnastics and dance classes, swimming and springboard diving, running and riding my bike. It never really mattered to me if I won, medaled, came in first, or even second for that matter. I did them because I purely I loved the feeling of movement.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. My story begins in Romania on November 19th, 1973, my birthday. Technically I was born in Transylvania, a region of Romania which prior to World War 1 belonged to Hungary. Therefore culturally my family is Hungarian. Life behind the iron curtain in the early 1970s was not what my father wanted for my sister, who was two and a half years older than me, mother and I so we emigrated to Israel during the brief time that the totalitarian regime was allowing Jews to travel to Israel. My father was a successful physical therapist and swiftly found a job in Tel Aviv working with Moshe Feldenkrais’s. I was nearly two and a half years old.

My memories of the following three years are hazy and almost dream-like but with flashes of vivid memories and feelings. We moved a lot between Romania and Israel. My parents’ marriage had fallen apart, they fought constantly and decided to separate. My father was offered a job in Northern California at the Sonoma State Hospital and left for America in 1977 to establish his career and set up life for us. Meanwhile, my sister, mother and I continued to travel back and forth between Romania and Israel. I’m still uncertain why we needed to travel so much. ‘Back home’ in Romania, my sister and I spent a majority of our time with our grandmothers. But when we traveled back to Israel, my sister and I spent a lot of time alone, fending for ourselves.