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Boston Woman Finds Stranger Who Gave Her $100 As She Fled Yugoslavia 23 Years Ago

BOSTON (CBS) -- A kind note from a stranger 23 years ago changed a Boston woman's life forever. Ayda Zugay, who was a young refugee from Yugoslavia at the time, never forgot that kindness -- and has been looking to thank the stranger for years.

Back in May of 1999, Ayda and her older sister Vanja Contino were refugees escaping the atrocities taking place in Yugoslavia. Her parents sent the two to live in the U.S.

At the time, Ayda was only 12 years old.

"We left with bombs falling all around us," Zugay said.

But on the plane, Ayda sat next to a woman who at the time she only knew as Tracy. Tracy listened to Ayda's story and was very touched by what she heard. At the end of the flight, she left the two girls this note along with a $100 bill inside.

The note read, "To the girls of 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 and happy one for you."

Ayda Zugay saved this note she received on a plane 23 years ago (WBZ-TV)

Ayda has kept this note with her all her life. When Ayda and her sister arrived here in America they didn't have a single dollar, so the surprise $100 gift from Tracy was a huge help. That, and her note gave her all the confidence she needed to survive.

"When I opened up the envelope and saw the $100 I was taken aback because we actually didn't have anything with us. We had no money, not even a dollar," Ayda laughed.

Fast forward twenty years: Ayda graduated from BU and works in the non-profit field in Boston. Her sister is happily married with two beautiful children.

For the past ten years, Ayda has been searching for her kind stranger through social media. "I noticed there was this woman Ashley who said, 'this is my mom. I recognized her handwriting. You're looking for Tracy Peck,'" she said.

The kind stranger is Tracy Peck from Minnesota. Just this week families connected over zoom. They shared laughs and unforgettable memories for an hour.

"Kindness is something -- it's a gift, a true gift from God. It was a no-brainer for me to do this for you girls because I was just so touched by your story," Tracy said.

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