Ilona Kaydanov, a talented dancer, dedicated swim and dance instructor and third-degree black belt holder in Taekwondo, died at the age of 22 after being hit by a car on her morning jog on Thursday, Aug. 31.
She was running with her brothers Dennis, 20, and Joseph Kaydanov, 13, along Harned Road in Commack when all three were struck by a 2022 Chrysler Voyager. Her brothers did not sustain life-threatening injuries and were taken to Good Samaritan University Hospital, while Ilona was pronounced dead after being rushed to South Shore University Hospital.
Ilona earned her bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s of business administration in marketing from Stony Brook University in 2021, after three and a half years. Those who knew her described her as driven and passionate about everything she did.
“She was an excellent example of what it means to work hard and get the results done,” Dennis said in a text to The Statesman. “She was hardworking, determined, passionate and a go-getter. She was a person who would do everything in her power to help others.”
Ilona was also an instructor at Dance With Us, a Long Island dance studio, where she was a member from a young age.
“She was so impressive at such a young age … and most people were just blown away by her accomplishments,” John Gunther, a close friend, dance partner and former student of Ilona’s said. “I had been taking lessons at the dance studio and they said, ‘oh, we have a new instructor,’ I’m thinking it’s somebody in their 30s, and here’s this girl at 17 years old … teaching 20, 30 and 40-year-olds how to dance.”
During the summer, Ilona and her brother would show off their artistic skills to their family. In the winter, they would enjoy the snowy weather together.
“Her and I would put on little musicals for my family [that included] costumes and props [from] our bedroom and things around the house,” Dennis said. “Whenever it snowed we would always play in the snow as well as shovel and then slide down our driveway. We would [also] make mini snowmen and keep them in the freezer until they disappeared.”
Ilona’s friends from dance remember her as a special person who brought positive energy.
“She’s not just any 22-year-old … her smile really lit up the room [and] she [was] just a really positive person to surround yourself with,” said Julia Davo, a fellow teacher at Dance With Us.
Davo was not the only one that felt that way.
“She was a very special person. In a nutshell, [she was] a unicorn,” Gunther said. “I think that she would want people to take something positive away from this.” “Obviously it’s a s***** situation and everybody’s going to feel sad, but I don’t think she would want people to spend the whole day mourning … I think she would want people to kind of take her example and run with it in your own life.”
Ilona’s memory lives on through her parents, Yelena and Michael Kaydanov, her brothers, Dennis and Joseph, her grandmother, Lubov Kaydanov, and her grandfather, Sasha Krivogorskiy.
“We’re holding it together. It’s rough,” Dennis said. “Everybody is absolutely heartbroken. We were a very close family. From meal prepping on the weekends, to hikes at Sunken Meadow. It’s never going to be the same without having Ilona there.”
Ilona left a positive impact on everyone who knew her and will be remembered as a loving and kind soul.
“[She] created a positive impact on the world, we should carry that legacy forward [and] we should all aspire to be a little bit more like her, because if we were, then the world would be a much better place,” Gunther said.