Her worst nightmare had come true. Her son had been abducted in a foreign country and she had no idea how to find him. But that certainly didn’t stop Kalliope “Kalli” Atteya, of Chambersburg, Pa., from slowly-but-surely tracking down her child and rescuing him in dramatic fashion.
In fact, her amazing story plays out like a Hollywood movie script. In August of 2011, the mother agreed to travel to Egypt with her ex-husband, Mohamed, so that her son, Niko, could meet his grandmother before she passed away. Mohammed, who had abandoned the family just three months after Niko was born in 2000, had different plans.
“Basically he married me for a visa,” Kalli told Fox News. The couple divorced in 2005.
Though she was reluctant to bring her son to Egypt at the height of the Arab Spring, Kalli ultimately gave in and agreed to travel to Egypt. Her sister, Maria Panagos, agreed to come with them to provide emotional support. In retrospect, she would probably admit it wasn’t a good decision. But she made up for it later.
After arriving in Egypt, the boy’s father kept trying to separate Niko from his mother and aunt so that he could have a “man talk” with his boy. The very next day he began asking about his son’s passport and the next day hired a car from Port Said to Cairo.
While driving, Mohamed told the driver to pull over because there was “car trouble.” However, it was just the final step in the father’s deranged plan to kidnap his son because the United States lacks “the morality and the values that their system has.” Niko told his mom that his dad wanted to “make him a Muslim.”
“Mohamed threw me off to the side and ran to the car,” Kalli told Fox News. “I remember seeing [Panagos] dragging behind the car as my son pounded on the windows. It was so unreal to me. At that very moment, I knew this was all preplanned.”
So there she was, helpless on the side of the highway, watching her son disappear into the distance.
The Egyptian authorities were of no help to Kalli, so she contacted a private Norwegian company to locate her son. Still, three separate trips to Egypt and $100,000 later, she had no idea where her son was.
That’s when she got desperate. It is a pretty universal known fact that you never want to come between a mother and her child.
“Some people will say I was crazy,” she told the Chambersburg Public Opinion. “I had already lost everything. I had nothing to lose.”
During her fourth trip to Egypt, Kalli enlisted the help of a local, who she doesn’t want to identify, to find her son and pull off a daring escape. After finally hunting down Mohamed’s address and conducting months of surveillance, the patient and persistent mother saw an opportunity to get her son back and jumped into action.
On March, 15, the mother, wearing a burqa as a disguise, grabbed her son as he was getting off the school bus. Niko was terrified at first as an unknown woman was dragging him away — that is until he saw her blue eyes through the slits of her burka.
“My first reaction was…[wondering] if that was my mom or not, and then I saw her eyes,” Niko recalled. “I thought, ‘Thank God. I’m going to finally get out of here. I’m going to be free.'”
Kalli then dressed her son up like a girl and hid out in a safe house so that Mohamed couldn’t find them. A few weeks later they were on their way back to the United States.
“Attorney Jeffrey Evans, who lobbied a local district attorney to file charges against Atteya, acknowledged the possibility of his return to the U.S. in search of Niko,” Fox News reports.
Even so, Evans said he’s putting his money on Kalli to keep her son safe.
“If there was ever a testament to the power of a mother’s love, she embodies that,” Evans said. “She persevered through some very dark times. She showed a tenacity that not many would have. She really is something special.”
Meanwhile, Kalli hopes that her ex-husband will soon end up where he belongs — behind bars.
To read Fox News’ full story, click here.
(H/T: Yahoo! Shine)