A CNN story helped a former refugee discover the thriller girl who gave her $100 on a aircraft a long time in the past


(CNN) — Tracy Peck was operating errands Saturday when she acquired a collection of texts and calls that shocked her — first from her tennis coach, then from her finest pal.

“Have you ever seen the CNN story?” each of them instructed her. “That needs to be you.”

At first, Peck brushed it apart. She was driving and had no concept what they had been speaking about. Then she pulled over and opened the hyperlink they’d despatched.

An image of a letter in her handwriting popped onto Peck’s iPhone display. As quickly as she noticed it, she says, recollections from a aircraft journey 23 years in the past got here speeding again.

She remembered sitting subsequent to 2 sisters fleeing the previous Yugoslavia. She remembered how younger and frightened the refugees appeared, how they reminded her of her personal daughters and the way their expertise fleeing warfare was heartbreaking and in contrast to something she’d ever handled.

She remembered reaching into her purse earlier than they acquired off the flight, pulling out an envelope, writing them a notice and putting her dangly earrings and a $100 invoice inside.

Peck had no concept then how a lot that envelope would come to imply to each ladies. And till she learn the CNN story Saturday, Peck says she had no concept that one of many sisters, Ayda Zugay, had been trying to find her for almost a decade.

Tracy Peck, left, had no concept that Ayda Zuday, proper, had been trying to find her for almost a decade.

Courtesy Tracy Peck and Ayda Zuday

Tears streamed down the 70-year-old therapeutic massage therapist’s face as she learn the sisters’ descriptions of how the present had modified their lives. For years Peck, who lives in suburban Minneapolis, says she’d labored to show her youngsters to be variety, telling them you by no means know the way your actions may have an effect on others. She by no means imagined she’d expertise such a surprising instance of how actually essential an act of kindness will be.

She wasn’t positive easy methods to attain the sisters, however she knew she wanted to attempt.

Family and friends helped with a whirlwind of tweets, emails and texts, and fewer than a day later, Peck and the sisters reunited on an emotional Zoom name.

She instructed them she’d been ceaselessly modified by listening to this newest chapter of their story.

“It warms my coronary heart past something I’ve ever skilled in my life,” she stated.

This childhood photo of Ayda Zugay and her sister, Vanja, was taken after they came to the United States. Tracy Peck says she remembers meeting them on a flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis.

This childhood photograph of Ayda Zugay and her sister, Vanja, was taken after they got here to the US. Tracy Peck says she remembers assembly them on a flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis.

Courtesy Ayda Zugay

How they discovered one another

Ayda Zugay could not consider her eyes. There, smiling within the middle of her laptop display, was Tracy — the girl who she’d been looking for for thus lengthy with solely an envelope, a primary identify and her personal recollections to assist her.

Zugay remembered the girl who sat subsequent to her and her sister had been carrying a tennis racket and talked about taking part in in Paris. And she or he knew she might always remember the gorgeous act of generosity welcoming her and her sister to the US. She was excited so many extra folks now knew the story, too — and particularly thrilled to see many individuals tweeting that they needed to be extra like Tracy.

This 1999 photo shows Tracy Peck (circled in red) on a group trip with other Minnesota women to play tennis and watch the French Open.

This 1999 photograph reveals Tracy Peck (circled in pink) on a bunch journey with different Minnesota girls to play tennis and watch the French Open.

Courtesy Deanne Sand Johnson

The CNN story circulated quickly on-line, reaching greater than 2 million readers. After it printed, Zugay says she was amazed to get messages of assist from as far-off as Angola, Brazil and India. On social media, many stated they had been impressed by Tracy’s generosity and supplied strategies of latest search avenues to seek out her.

What about making an attempt to get a passenger manifest from US Customs and Border Safety? Or a DNA pattern from the envelope? Or getting the US Tennis Affiliation to publicize her search to their members?

Zugay felt impressed to maintain going along with her search. However in the long run, she did not want to show to the concepts novice sleuths had despatched on social media to seek out Tracy. As an alternative, two of Tracy’s shut contacts got here to her.

Tracy’s tennis coaches helped piece collectively the puzzle

First Zugay noticed a tweet from one among Peck’s daughters, alerting her to the handwriting match. Then a tennis coach reached out.

That coach, Susan Allen, additionally acknowledged Peck’s handwriting. However much more than that, the story made sense.

Asked by CNN to provide an example of her handwriting, Tracy Peck rewrote this version of the 1999 note. Peck, 70, says her handwriting is so distinctive that it's a running joke with her friends -- not to mention she's known for using emojis and always signing her name with a heart.

Requested by CNN to offer an instance of her handwriting, Tracy Peck rewrote this model of the 1999 notice. Peck, 70, says her handwriting is so distinctive that it is a operating joke along with her pals — to not point out she’s identified for utilizing emojis and all the time signing her identify with a coronary heart.

Courtesy Tracy Peck

“Realizing Tracy,” she instructed CNN, “that’s precisely what Tracy would do.” Allen says she’s identified Peck for years as a beneficiant one that does not suppose twice about serving to others.

However Allen anticipated extra proof could be wanted to point out that Zugay and Peck had been on the identical aircraft. Allen reached out to her fellow coach, Deanne Sand Johnson. Collectively, they scoured their information to assist.

Again in Could 1999, their firm Love / To Journey gave girls in Minnesota an opportunity to journey internationally to play tennis and watch tournaments. They led a bunch of 18 girls — together with Peck — to Paris that month to look at the French Open.

Johnson stored a scrapbook documenting the journey. One web page featured a crew photograph. One other included a receipt from a journey company with the group’s itinerary. The second leg of their return journey was a flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis on Could 31, 1999 — the identical date and route Zugay recalled flying.

This receipt shared by one of Tracy Peck's tennis coaches shows the itinerary for their group's 1999 trip. They were on a flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis on May 31.

This receipt shared by one among Tracy Peck’s tennis coaches reveals the itinerary for his or her group’s 1999 journey. They had been on a flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis on Could 31.

Courtesy Deanne Sand Johnson

Allen began a bunch textual content placing Peck and Zugay in contact. Then she shared the pictures.

“The images are so surreal to see!” Zugay wrote. “That is so stunning!”

Allen was thrilled. “I’m taking deep tennis breaths I’m so excited,” she wrote.

Zugay, who lives in Boston, advised a Zoom reunion the subsequent day.

“So excited that I am unable to even kind!” she instructed the group.

She was more and more satisfied she’d discovered the thriller girl she’d been trying to find, however nonetheless she did not know what to anticipate.

Earlier than the decision, she went to a park to calm her nerves. She realized one thing she’d wanted for years lastly was inside attain.

They shared an emotional reunion over Zoom

Zugay felt much more relieved the second she heard Peck’s voice.

“Hi there stunning girls!” Peck cried gleefully because the Zoom name started. Zugay seen she was sporting dangly earrings, similar to she had been the day they met on the aircraft.

“It has been greater than 20 years,” Zugay stated, holding up the envelope.

A page from Johnson's scrapbook shows the receipt and photos of the tennis tour group as they prepared to leave Minneapolis in May 1999.

A web page from Johnson’s scrapbook reveals the receipt and images of the tennis tour group as they ready to go away Minneapolis in Could 1999.

Courtesy Deanne Sand Johnson

Peck instructed the sisters how vividly she remembered what it felt like when she met them.

“It simply touched my coronary heart a lot that I simply felt compelled that I had that can assist you not directly,” she stated.

Zugay’s sister, Vanja Contino, chimed in from her Connecticut house.

“Your generosity continues to be in me,” she stated, “as a result of I have been paying it ahead ever since.”

Zugay instructed Peck issues she’d needed to share with the notice’s creator for years — how grateful she was, why the present had meant a lot, how uncommon she now is aware of such welcoming messages are, how they’d used the cash to scrape by consuming pancake combine and Coca Cola for a complete summer time.

She admitted she’d been nervous concerning the Zoom at first, then realized that abruptly she was feeling stronger.

” these big doorways that they’ve in previous locations internationally? It felt like that massive, heavy door simply acquired shut. And I am lastly in a position to transfer ahead and thrive. … And it simply makes me so blissful,” Zugay stated. “Thanks for reminding me to be sturdy.”

Peck stated she was the one who was grateful. At a time when there’s a lot ache and struggling on the earth, she hopes others will take extra time to offer again.

On the 1999 trip to watch the French Open, Tracy Peck (right) and her teammates met tennis star Monica Seles.

On the 1999 journey to look at the French Open, Tracy Peck (proper) and her teammates met tennis star Monica Seles.

Courtesy Deanne Sand Johnson

“I simply need to encourage everyone on the earth to simply be variety. What does it harm? Besides it helps everybody. Smile, make eye contact, assist anybody that is in bother or in peril. And I simply do not know why anybody would not try this,” she stated. “So, I am very, very grateful that I’ve discovered you ladies, that you’ve discovered me.”

“Sure, we did,” Zugay laughed. It nonetheless felt unusual to say it out loud.

“You probably did, in spite of everything that very long time,” Peck stated. “And we now have quite a lot of catching as much as do.”

They hope to satisfy up in particular person sometime

On Sunday, the catching up started. Contino launched Peck to her daughters. Peck launched one among her daughters and two of her grandchildren.

Collectively, Peck and the sisters marveled in any respect the components that led to them being seated in the identical row that day, how many individuals had labored collectively to share the story and the way social media helped them reconnect so shortly over the weekend.

Peck, shown here with members of her tennis tour group near the Eiffel Tower, says she isn't sure now which of her friends was sitting in the row near her on the flight back to Minneapolis. Zugay remembered another person named Tracy, and helping someone with knitting. Peck was the only Tracy in the group, but coaches say at least two others were knitters. Zugay hopes she'll also have a chance to speak with whoever it was someday.

Peck, proven right here with members of her tennis tour group close to the Eiffel Tower, says she is not positive now which of her pals was sitting within the row close to her on the flight again to Minneapolis. Zugay remembered one other particular person named Tracy, and serving to somebody with knitting. Peck was the one Tracy within the group, however coaches say no less than two others had been knitters. Zugay hopes she’ll even have an opportunity to talk with whoever it was sometime.

Courtesy Tracy Peck

Crossing paths that day, and once more lastly 23 years later, felt meant to be.

They talked about the potential for assembly up in particular person sometime. Possibly they might even spend a Memorial Day weekend collectively sooner or later, marking the anniversary of when Zugay and Contino arrived in the US.

Peck promised the sisters that every time they go to, she’ll make them one of the best pancakes they’ve ever had.

A recent photo shows sisters Vanja Contino and Ayda Zugay. "You both are remarkable young women," Tracy Peck told them in their recent Zoom reunion. "I'm so thankful I was sitting next to you on that airplane...and so proud of you both for what you've become and how your life has turned out here."

A latest photograph reveals sisters Vanja Contino and Ayda Zugay. “You each are outstanding younger girls,” Tracy Peck instructed them of their latest Zoom reunion. “I am so grateful I used to be sitting subsequent to you on that airplane…and so pleased with you each for what you have turn out to be and the way your life has turned out right here.”

Courtesy Ayda Zugay

Peck already had 5 youngsters — three daughters and two stepsons. She feels that now she has two extra.

They could have been strangers 23 years in the past when Peck wrote that notice on the aircraft. However now, Peck says, they’re household.

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