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Pa. mom 'will never give up' search for missing son last seen in Egypt

June 26, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Georgia Panagos, left, Nick Panagos and their daughter, Kalliopi "Kalli" (Panagos) Atteya of Fayetteville, Pa., have not seen Kalliopi's son, Khalil Mohamed "Niko" Atteya, since he was allegedly kidnapped by his noncustodial father Mohamed Atteya in Egypt on Aug. 1
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. — Birthdays have come and gone. Holidays and family celebrations have continued, but nothing will be the same until a missing Fayetteville boy is returned to his family.

It’s been almost a year since 11-year-old Khalil Mohamed “Niko” Atteya was last seen while on a vacation in Egypt last August with his mother Kalliopi “Kalli” (Panagos) Atteya and aunt, Maria Panagos.

“We have not seen a picture of him. We have not heard his voice — nothing,” said Niko’s aunt, Olga Panagos-Kriska.

Since his disappearance, Niko’s mother and aunt Maria have made two additional trips to Egypt to meet with attorneys and U.S. Embassy officials.

Their most recent trip was from April until June 14.

While Kalli has high praise for how the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office and the Pennsylvania State Police handled her son’s case, she said federal officials have turned their back on her son.

“There are so many children that are missing and abducted to Egypt, but nobody cares about them. But, let it be somebody who works for the government — close to the White House and close to the president and everybody jumps and brings them back within 24 hours,” Kalli said.

“The thing that angers me is the government (United States) really is doing nothing to help us,” Olga said.

“If the local authorities had been working on this case, Niko would have been home by now,” Kalli said.

It’s been a heartbreaking waiting game for the Fayetteville family since Niko was allegedly kidnapped by his noncustodial father Mohamed Atteya in Egypt on Aug. 1.

The close-knit family, who all live within a mile of each other, holds tightly to each other and a shared hope.

“I can’t give up. That’s the only thing I have is that I’m going to find him,” Kalli said.

July 17 is Niko’s 12th birthday, but there will be no celebration this year.

“There is nothing we can buy Niko (for his birthday). The only thing we can do is keep fighting to bring him home,” Olga said.

The search for her son has taken an emotional as well as a financial toll on Kalli and the entire family.

“Kalli has lost everything so far. She’s lost her job. She’s lost her son, and she’s about to lose her home,” Olga said.

So far, the family has spent close to $150,000 toward the search for Niko in travel to Egypt, attorney fees and phone expenses.

Kalli said she has pulled money from her son’s college fund, and her savings and retirement accounts to fund the search for Niko.

Kalli has moved in with her mother and father in Fayetteville.

Nick and Georgia Panagos, Niko’s grandparents, are devastated by their grandson’s disappearance.

“It’s taken 10 years off my life,” said Nick Panagos.

‘Like a tomb’
Niko loved spending time at his grandparents busying himself in the yard with his grandfather or sampling some of his grandmother’s cooking in the kitchen.

“The house is like a tomb without him,” Kalli said.

“She’s (Kalli) trying to hold onto her home but is struggling to pay the mortgage,” Olga said. “She sold everything in her house except for her clothes and Niko’s clothes.”

Kalli is keeping Niko’s two dogs, Princess, an 8-year-old pit bull, and Cleo, a 2-year-old miniature Schnauzer.

“He loves those dogs,” Olga said.

“When we were packing to go to Egypt, Princess climbed into Niko’s suitcase like she didn’t want him to go,” Kalli said, wondering if the dog sensed the danger Niko was about to face.

As Kalli talks about that day, tears well up in her eyes.

“I miss him. He was my life. I don’t think anyone understands how much — he was so much a part of me. I breathed because he was there. That’s the only way I can describe it.”

It’s not the milestones, but the little things that she misses about her son.

“I sit on my porch and wait for him to come around the corner on his bike. I wait for him to come in the room so he can play PlayStation 3, or I think he’s going to be singing a song like he used to because he was an amazing little singer,” she said.

“I’ve never missed a day watching him grow up,” she said, her voice cracking.

Everywhere she goes, Kalli imagines seeing her son. Since she is separated from her young son, she worries about him.

“Did he get his shots for sixth grade? How tall is he now? Is anyone taking him to the dentist?” Kalli asked.

Despite all the worry, Kalli manages to focus on one thing — reuniting with Niko soon.

“I will never give up,” she said.

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