23 Years After Act of Kindness, She Finds Out How Much It Meant

Tracy Peck's $100 gift to 2 young refugees kept them eating in 1999
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2022 1:33 PM CDT
23 Years After Act of Kindness, She Finds Out How Much It Meant
The gift was a life-changer, the sisters say.   (Getty Images/InspirationGP)

(Newser) – The woman signed the envelope "a friend from the plane—Tracy." Then she tucked her earrings and a $100 bill inside and handed it to the two young refugees sitting next to her on the flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis in 1999. It was an act of kindness the sisters, who were fleeing war in former Yugoslavia, never forgot, per CNN. Indeed, younger sister Ayda Zugay has spent almost a decade searching for Tracy, who'd instructed the pair, then aged 11 and 17, to open the envelope only after exiting the plane. Eight years ago, Zugay posted to Reddit asking for help in finding the mystery woman who welcomed them so kindly, who'd carried a tennis racket and talked about playing tennis in Paris.

Her search found a wide audience over the weekend when CNN covered it. "We went from like this drastic horror into this beautiful act of kindness," Zugay told the outlet. Through strangers urged Zugay to test for DNA on the envelope, there was no need. Friends of Tracy Peck had reached out to the 70-year-old massage therapist from Minnesota, convinced that Zugay's note matched her handwriting. It all made sense. As CNN explains, Peck had been among a group of 18 women who'd traveled to Paris to watch the French Open in 1999. A scrapbook kept by one of the women included a record of their return flight, from Amsterdam to Minneapolis, on May 31, 1999—the same route and date Zugay had provided.

Zugay and Peck were soon put in touch, and they have since reunited in a virtual Zoom call. Zugay, now living in Boston, told Peck that her gift had fed the sisters for their entire first summer in America—mostly in the form of pancake mix and Coca Cola—while they lived with their brother, a college student, in Iowa. "Your generosity is still in me because I've been paying it forward ever since," Zugay's sister, Vanja Continoshe, added from her home in Connecticut. "It warms my heart beyond anything I've ever experienced in my life," said Peck, who urges others to "just be kind," per CNN. The trio are now talking of meeting up in person, with Peck promising to make the sisters the best pancakes they've ever had. (Read more uplifting news stories.)

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