Refugees reunite with woman who gave them $100 on a flight 20 years ago

  • A $100 cash present from an American on an airline journey 23 years ago inspired hope in two young refugee women.
  • The two women have always wanted to find the American woman, but all they knew about her was her first name, Tracy.
  • Through amateur investigation and a viral tweet, the three women have reunited. 

Ayda Zugay was 12 years old when she and her sister Vanja Contino left the war caused by the Soviet Union’s downfall in 1999. When an American tennis teacher saw their situation on a Northwest Airlines trip, she handed them an envelope.

Tracy Peck

It contained a pair of earrings, $100, and a letter that read: “I am so sorry that the bombing of your country has caused you and your family problems. I hope your stay in America is a safe and happy one for you. A friend from the plane—Tracy ❤️”

That was the end of the story for a long time. Ayda and Vanja are now living in Boston and Connecticut, respectively.

Ayda, on the other hand, would never forget Tracy’s kindness, nor would she give up hope that the sisters might be able to express their gratitude in person one day.

Meanwhile, Tracy Peck, the tennis teacher from Minneapolis, was 70 years old and working as a massage therapist.

A flood of texts and phone calls recently informed her that she had been featured in a national news story. Zugay was on the hunt for her, and CNN reporter Catherine Shoichet revealed her plan to the world.

But it was when the refugee advocacy group Refugees International tweeted a 2-minute video of Zugay detailing her desire to find Tracy that the search became decisive.

The sweet reunion

One of Peck’s kids noticed the tweet, as did Susan Allen, Peck’s tennis coach colleague.

Tracy was on the plane that fateful day because she had been given the opportunity to fly to Paris in 1999 to attend the French Open. Allen, who helped organize that trip, figured he’d need some proof, so he reached out to another tennis friend who had been on the same flight, and who just so happened to have in his scrapbook the receipt for the flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis on May 31st, along with a team photo from the same date as Zugay remembered.

Then, in a group chat with Zugay and Tracy Peck, Allen posted the photos as confirmation that Zugay’s 23-year search was finally over.

A Zoom conversation was arranged with her and the two sisters, and on their computer screens emerged the same joyful smile as 23 years ago, although with a few more tears.

They discussed a lot of things, including how they spent the $100 to eat pancake mix for the entire summer.

Following several video calls that included catching up, the introduction of Vanja’s daughters, and other topics, they aim to meet in person soon.

Peck already has five children, but she now counts them as seven.

Source: Good News Network

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