'She was almost treating us like we were family,' said Zugay.
A little generosity always goes a long way - that's something Ayda Zugay and her sister Vanja would perfectly understand. In 1999, Zugay and her sister got a gift from a complete stranger for which they are still grateful. The civil war was in full swing in Yugoslavia and bombs were dropping in Belgrade where they lived, according to CBS News. Belgrade was that time part of the former Balkan country and now Serbia. Zugay's parents understanding the situation put the 11-year-old and her sister on a plane to the US. It was a terrifying situation for the two, but the stranger sitting next to them was their only comfort.
"I remember how kind she was to us," Zugay said. "She was almost treating us like we were family." The woman gave them an envelope. There was a note in the envelope, "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 and happy one for you — welcome to America — please use this to help you here — : ) a friend from the plane — Tracy ” She concluded the note with a heart symbol, as reported by StarTribune.
To their surprise, the envelope had a $100 bill, a pair of dangly gold earrings, and a piece of jewelry. They "couldn't believe that somebody had so much empathy." They both moved in with a relative who didn't have much money and this $100 bill fed the family for three months. According to Zugay, it feeds her soul until today. She said, “It really meant something important to us." “After seeing so many bad, bad things, it was a breath of life to be able to see good happening in front of us.”
That one act of kindness became a driving force in her life. She has two businesses that promote environmental and social justice. Zugay said, "The reason why I do what I do is because of Tracy," she said. "Every decision that I made had to do with paying it forward."
In the hope of finding Tracy a few years ago, Zugay put out a post on social media, and news outlets began to put out stories about the same. It was only after CNN wrote an article about it, Tracy's handwriting was recognized by a friend and it was passed on to Tracy Peck, who lives in Blaine, Minnesota. Her daughter contacted Zugay and said, "You are looking for my mom Tracy Peck! Her handwriting is unmistakable. She remembers you girls from the flight!" That was the best moment of Zugay and her sister, Vanja's life.
The three reunited two weeks ago. Peck said, "We just stood there and hugged and cried." "I just felt such a deep love for them."
Peck believes that what she has gotten in return for $100 is far greater. Peck said, "They've taught me the slightest thing that you can do for someone, you don't realize what impact that's going to have on their life," Peck said. "We have no idea."