A stranger on an airplane gave her $100 years ago and changed her life. Now she’s trying to find the mystery woman to thank her

One kind deed can be a game-changer for many people. Life can be tough for a lot of us, especially those who are not born with the financial leverage to give us a boost in life. Our story today is of a woman who was down on her luck. She was a refugee from former Yugoslavia who had moved to America with her older sister in 1999. They were given a blessing from a stranger and, eventually, they began trying to search for this person so that they could share their gratitude.

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Two Sisters and a Stranger

Ayda Zugay and her older sister, Vanja, kept this bag packed at all times, in case they needed to leave in a rush, something they had grown used to being refugees. Their apartment home in Boston was bland, with no decoration and no keepsakes. The only thing she has kept for a long time is an envelope that ultimately changed their lives. 

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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.
Childhood photograph of the sisters. Image Credit: Ayda Zugay

Ayda Zugay was 12 years old when they fled Yugoslavia with her older sister. The pair only had their clothes on their back and a small bag with some essential items in it. It was 1999, and they were aboard a flight to America. They sat together with the entire light, and before they began their descent, a woman came up to them. They didn’t know her, and she didn’t give her name. She simply handed them an envelope and made them promise not to open it until they landed. Once they did, Ayda’s older sister opened the envelope, which only had a first name, “Tracy” written on the front. Well, they were shocked to find a beautiful pair of earrings and a $100 bill. 

That $100 bill helped them survive for a whole summer when they first arrived. They had money to buy food, and it helped change their future. Ayda and her sister were determined to find this woman called Tracy, whose last name they did not know, nor where she lived. About two decades later, their search continues. 

Read: Electrician Fixes Struggling Couple’s Heat For Free So They Trick Him Into Returning

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They Searched For Tracy Through social Media

Ayda posted videos on Twitter recently where she explained her reasons for wanting to find Tracy. At one point in the video she said:

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“I want to be able to find Tracy to thank her for her generosity, for her kindness, for her empathy, and for welcoming my sister and I was wondering if you could help me find her. Have you ever heard a family member or a friend or anyone share a story that’s similar to this?”

This is a well-rehearsed story for Ayda, who has explained it many times before. She remembers the woman from the plane clearly, even though she did not speak English at the time, she remembered Vanja chatting with her. In the video, she explained what she remembered, and what she thought she would be like now. She said, 

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“Tracy, by this time, would be a middle-aged or an older woman who is amazing at tennis and had traveled for it in the past. She would have flown from Paris, where she stayed at a Holiday Inn and where she played tennis, to Amsterdam, where we met on that flight. She would have flown from Amsterdam to Minnesota, and this would have been on May 31, 1999.” 

Fast forward, they Found Tracy

There are many things we can thank the internet for, and one of them is how easy it is for word to spread. Friends of Tracy recognized the story from how Tracy herself had told them. They contacted her about the video. Her full name is Tracy Peck, and she’s now 70 years old.

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Tracy Peck, left, had no idea that Ayda Zugay, right, had been searching for her for nearly a decade.
Tracy Peck (left) and Ayda Zugay (right). Image Credit: Tracy Peck and Ayda Zugay


It was Tracy’s tennis coach who had solved the mystery. She found the video and recognized the story. She said she had known Tracy as a very generous person, and it just had to be her. After a little help from some friends, Tracy managed to connect with the Zugay sisters on a Zoom call that got emotional very quickly. Tracy told the girls: “It just touched my heart so much that I just felt compelled that I had to help you in some way,” Vanja told Tracy: “Your generosity is still in me because I’ve been paying it forward ever since.”

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Keep Reading: Man notices boy staring at his phone leading to act of kindness captured on film

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Sources

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  1. The $100 bill she gave two sisters on a plane 23 years ago changed their lives. Now finding them has changed hers“. CNN. Catherine E. Shoichet. May 3, 2022.
  2. A letter. A $100 bill. And a meeting that changed the lives of two young refugees.Star Tribune. Mukhtar M. Ibrahim. November 23, 2018.
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