AUSTIN (KXAN) — The gift of a lifetime came early this holiday season for one Austin man.
Izzy El-Ubaydy was reunited with his mother after he was kidnapped as a child. He surprised her in their German hometown, after 16 years apart.
El-Ubaydy is a well-known fitness trainer in Austin. He’s shared his story with followers on social media.
“I’m excited to share with you guys what almost 20 years of hope looks like,” he said in a video posted to Instagram shortly before he flew to Germany to reunite with his mom.
El-Ubaydy says his father kidnapped him and his and brother from their home in Germany when he was nine years old. According to El-Ubaydy, he changed their identities, and after a year of traveling around Europe and several months in Atlanta, he eventually brought them to Austin.
“We were homeless for about six months,” El-Ubaydy recalled. “I remember the bench we would stay on, sleep on, on Congress.”
However, for years, Izzy never stopped looking for his mother. He remembers first searching for her on a computer in a homeless shelter he and his father and brother stayed in after they moved to Austin. El-Ubaydy says his father would not allow the boys to ask any questions about their former life in Germany, so he’d search in private.
At age 16, El-Ubaydy says he ran away from his father and was later adopted by a friend’s mother. That, he says, allowed him to continue searching for his mom more freely.
Izzy says he would search the internet, scouring maps and images of his hometown, and searching his name, along with his mother’s, although he only knew a few variations of her first name.
“I was really just kind of trying out of disparity,” he said, until one day, “On one of the pages, I saw a picture of my mom holding my brother and I.”
She had posted a video to YouTube looking for El-Ubaydy and his brother, too.
She’d listed an email address, so he immediately emailed her, then the next day, called her– on Mother’s Day of 2012.
“I just started crying, I just started crying.” El-Ubaydy said. “So much of my life was spent looking for my mom, and I’d finally found her.”
However, since he says his father erased his real identity, it would take seven more years to meet her.
He finally made it back to the neighborhood where he first grew up and paid his mother a surprise visit.
“I walked up and I heard her voice say, “Oh my God, Sebastian” and when I heard that I ran and I hugged her.”
El-Ubaydy was also able to get some important documents to help prove his original identity while in Germany. He says he’s set to become an American citizen in less than 200 days. He says one day soon, he hopes to bring his mom to Austin for a visit, so he can show her his life in America.