When two sisters fled Yugoslavia during their childhood, a compassionate stranger seated next to them on their flight gave them an envelope containing $100, leaving a lasting impact on their lives.

At the age of 11, Ayda Zugay, along with her sister Vanja, escaped the war in Yugoslavia to seek refuge in America. The memories of bombs falling during their departure were etched in Ayda’s mind. On a connecting flight from Paris to the U.S., the sisters found themselves next to a generous woman named Tracy, who shared her tennis experiences in Paris. Despite the language barrier, the girls, with limited English proficiency, opened up to Tracy about leaving their war-torn home.

Unbeknownst to Tracy, the sisters had nothing with them, not even a single dollar, as their flight tickets were provided by a family member.

“We didn’t have anything with us,” Ayda recalled with a heartfelt smile. “We had no money, not even a dollar.”

Before landing, the kind woman handed them an envelope, instructing them not to open it until they disembarked. When they finally opened it, they discovered a pair of earrings and $100 inside.

The envelope also contained a warm note extending a welcome to the girls from Yugoslavia:

“To: The girls from Yugoslavia.
I am so sorry that the bombing of your country has caused your family any problems. I hope your stay in America will be a safe + happy one for you – Welcome to America – Please use this to help you here – 🙂 A friend from the plane – Tracy ❤️”

For the young girls navigating a frightening situation and entering an unfamiliar country on their own, the heartfelt note and generous gift from Tracy held profound significance. They observed Tracy’s emphasis on the word “safe.”

“It was the first time that I felt, like, relief. This is a safe place, and we can build a future here,” Ayda shared. “I think that’s why the letter resonated with me at that time because we went from this drastic horror into this beautiful act of kindness.”

Ayda fondly recalls the moment they opened the letter and discovered the $100 inside.

“On the outside of the envelope was an amazing message of welcome,” she said.
“We both just looked at each other, me and my sister, and just hugged each other. Because that’s all we had… and it was just amazing that somebody was willing to spend that kind of money on us.”

The $100 proved crucial for the young girls as they settled in, sustaining them through a summer where pancake mix became their primary sustenance.

As the girls navigated adulthood, moving around and owning few possessions, Ayda cherished one thing above all – the kind letter bestowed upon her by the woman on the plane.

Fast forward 23 years, and the girls have blossomed into successful individuals, their lives profoundly influenced by the simple act of kindness from the woman on the plane. Ayda, a Boston University graduate, dedicates her work to non-profits in Boston, contributing to positive change. Her sister, Vanja, has become a doctor, making a daily impact in helping people.

As adults, having clung to the letter from the plane as a beacon of hope, the girls harbored a deep desire to reconnect with Tracy and express their heartfelt gratitude. Despite online searches and inquiries at hotels, their efforts to locate Tracy proved futile. Determined, they shared their story, along with a photo of the letter, online in the hope that someone might know Tracy.

The media caught wind of their quest, and soon, one of Tracy’s daughters, who also served as her tennis coach, recognized the handwriting. She reached out to inform the girls that her mother’s name was Tracy Peck and that she resided in Minnesota.

In the past, Tracy had been granted an opportunity by her tennis coach’s company, Love To Travel, to join 18 women on a trip to Paris to watch the French Open. It was during the return journey that she happened to sit next to Ayda and Vanja.

The girls subsequently had the chance to engage in a Zoom video call with Tracy and her daughter, expressing their heartfelt gratitude. Tracy reminisced about the encounter, emphasizing how meeting the young girls on the plane had deeply moved her.

“It just touched my heart so much that I just felt compelled that I had to help you in some way,” Tracy shared.

“Your generosity is still in me because I’ve been paying it forward ever since,” Vanja expressed to Tracy.

Watch this heartwarming video of Ayda and Vanja finally connecting with Tracy: