Hero Mom Rescues Her Kidnapped Son By Wearing A Genius Disguise

 

Whether you're overprotective or laid-back, every mom has one thing in common: Strength. You need it if you want to be a mom because having a child comes with too many fears to count. There's the fear that your kid will be bullied, fear that your kid will get sick, the terrible list goes on. Of course, then there’s The Fear, the one some moms can barely bear thinking about at all. 

Kidnapping is truly every parents' nightmare. This was mom Kalli Atteya’s biggest worry as well, one she saw come true before her very eyes. But instead of giving up, Kalli did what most moms would do: She hopped on a plane and donned a clever disguise, determined to see her son again.

How Did She Get Here?

Of all the places Kalli Atteya thought she’d end up, the side of the road in the middle of Egypt wasn’t on her list. Of course, meeting a man like Mohamed Atteya wasn’t in the plan, either. The day they first met, everything changed...

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Kalli and Mohamed Atteya

In 1999, Kalli was on track to get her Master’s degree in Education when she met Atteya, who was working in a restaurant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They got married a year later, but according to Kalli, that’s when their love story took a turn.

Kalli Atteya

Suddenly A Single Mom

“Three months after our boy was born, he left,” Kalli said of Atteya. Kalli found herself suddenly alone with her newborn son, Niko. She was thrust into the role of a single mom, no matter how hard Kalli fought for her marriage to survive.

Kalli Atteya

A Fateful Mistake

Then, the truth came out: “Basically, he married me for a visa,” Kalli revealed. When their divorce was finally granted in 2005, Atteya moved to Egypt, though Kalli tried to keep him in Niko’s life. This ended up being a fateful mistake.

Marriage Story/Heyday Films/Netflix

En Route To Egypt

You see, in July of 2011, Atteya told Kalli that his mother was dying, and that her final wish was for Niko to see her. The problem? Atteya’s mother lived all the way in Egypt. Still, Kalli knew what she had to do.

Car Trouble?

Kalli and Niko flew all the way to Egypt with Kalli’s sister, Maria, in tow. When Atteya picked them up in a taxi, all three climbed in...but minutes later, as the family was traveling down a lonely dirt road, the car suddenly started to sputter.

Mohamed Kidnapped Niko

Atteya complained of car trouble and pulled over. According to Kalli, that’s when everything changed. Atteya forced Kalli and Maria out of the car, slammed the door, and immediately disappeared down the road, taking Niko with him.

Kidnap/Aviron Pictures

Terrifying Moment

Kalli described the moment in terrifying detail. “[Niko] was pounding on the back window, asking, screaming for me and his aunt,” Kalli said. But all the two women could do was chase the taxi until it was gone, leaving only tire tracks in its wake.

The Babadook/Screen Australia/Entertainment One

Abandoned In Egypt

Abandoned in an unfamiliar country, Kalli and Maria tried not to panic. Kalli knew this wasn’t a mistake. As much as she had once loved Mohamed as her husband, there was no denying that he played a much different role now: Niko’s kidnapper.

Dangerous Revolution

Kalli immediately contacted the local authorities, but it wasn’t long before they realized the police were no help. See, there was another element to Niko’s kidnapping that was greatly complicating things: In 2011, Egypt was in the midst of a revolution.

Kim Badawi/Getty Images

The Police Are No Help

Kalli had no doubt that this revolution would inhibit the police’s search...and that it probably had something to do with why Atteya kidnapped Niko in the first place. Still, this information didn’t get Kalli any closer to locating her son, so she made some calls.

Kidnap/Aviron Pictures

Wasting Time And Money

When the local police couldn’t help her, she contacted private detectives. But as the months passed and still Niko was nowhere to be found, even the most experienced (and expensive) detectives were forced to return to Kalli empty handed.

David Silverman/Getty Images

"I had nothing to lose"

Kalli had nowhere else to turn...until she realized something. If detectives couldn’t help her, then she’d just have to take matters into her own hands. “Some people will say I was crazy,” Kalli said. “I had already lost everything. I had nothing to lose.”

Colleen McGrath

A Mother's Love

Some people would find it crazy that she made four trips to Egypt to search for Niko, but if you ask a mother, they probably wouldn’t see it as crazy at all. A mother’s love stretches far and wide, even all the way to Egypt…

"A living death"

“To me, it’s like a living death,” Kalli described of life without Niko. “You know, I’m walking, I’m breathing, but it’s nothing. The emptiness.” After two years of hoping, crying, and exhaustive searches, however, Kalli discovered that hope wasn’t lost after all.

Kalli Atteya

Finally Finding Hope

Despite the enormous financial toll, Kalli decided to hire one last private investigator to help her navigate the unfamiliar Egyptian landscape. This, along with her own determination, finally gave Kalli the lead she was searching for.

Fox News

Throwing Caution To The Wind

She and the private investigator tracked Niko’s whereabouts down to Alexandria, Egypt. Once they knew his general location, Kalli knew how close she was to seeing her son again...so she couldn’t help but throw caution to wind.

Kalli's Genius Disguise

While disguised as an Egyptian woman, Kalli spent months following her ex-husband and son around Alexandria. She went back and forth between wearing a burqa and a niqab, each time just trying to shield her face from her ex while seeing if Niko was safe.

Opla/Getty Images

Waiting For The Right Moment...

Every time she saw Niko in person, it took everything she had to stick to her plan. “I came so close to my son, and I could not touch him,” she later said. Kalli knew patience was key; she had to wait for the right moment to act.

Franck Prevel/Getty Images

Kalli To The Rescue

And on March 14th, 2013, Kalli finally made her move. It must have been strange from Niko’s perspective: As he walked into school, a woman shrouded in black grabbed his arm and said something he’d waited two years to hear. “Niko, it’s mommy. Come with me.”

Sebastian Horndasch/Flickr

His Mother's Eyes

But as strange as it must have been, Niko wasn’t scared — not when he looked into the eyes of the woman who called herself his mother. He recognized them as his mother’s eyes, which were characteristically blue. With that in mind, he didn’t hesitate.

Kalli Atteya

"Get in"

Kalli rushed them over to a waiting rickshaw. “Get in,” she whispered, and Niko did just that. He was once again being shepherded away from a parent, but this time, he was on his way to safety...at least, that’s what they hoped.

Hoosier Tim's Travel Videos/YouTube

The Truth Comes Out

As Kalli held Niko close to her, she finally learned why her ex-husband had kidnapped her son. Niko told her that his father wanted to “make him a Muslim” because American society was "rotting." Atteya, it turns out, was a dedicated member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamada Elrasam for VOA

Not Necessarily Safe

The duo stayed at a safe house for three weeks before flying home, but just because they were out of arm’s length from Atteya didn’t mean they were safe. Even now, Kalli and Niko keep their address a secret from anyone they don’t trust.

There's Always Hope

Still, Kalli has reason for hope: Mohamed Atteya is wanted for kidnapping a U.S. citizen (AKA Niko), and he’s also wanted for forging documents that lied about Niko’s Egyptian citizenship. Now that Niko is home safe, Kalli just wants to regain a sense of normalcy.

Kalli Atteya

Mother's Love Has No Bounds

“[Niko] knew that his mother would come for him,” Maria told the press. Niko, of course, was right not to doubt his mother’s dedication to finding him. A mother’s love truly has no bounds...even when the mother herself is the victim of a terrible crime.

The Impossible/Warner Bros. Pictures

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