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Woman who lost $10,000 on a train platform meets the subway Samaritan who returned the cash

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 1/11/2019 Elizabeth Elizalde, Leonard Greene
a person in a suit and tie © Barry Williams for New York Daily News

He’s her subway savior.

A grateful Manhattan fashionista gave her personal thanks Thursday to the hero who found her purse on a subway platform — and returned the $10,000 tucked inside.

Aiya Tulemaganbetova was on the northbound platform at the 66th St. station near Lincoln Center on Dec. 20, where she left her blue Chanel bag on a bench.

Tulemaganbetova stepped on an uptown train, and didn’t realize her mistake until she reached 72nd St., a stop away. She frantically backtracked to 66th St., but the purse — and her hopes of a happy holiday — were long gone.

She filed a report with cops at Manhattan’s 20th Precinct on the slim chance she’d get her money back. She could just as easily have written a letter to Santa.

Tulemaganbetova, who lives on the Upper West Side, was heading to her native Kazakhstan to spend the holidays with her family. She was planning to use much of the money to buy Christmas gifts for her kids.

But she had to get on the plane empty-handed.

"She was feeling stressed when it happened," said Edward Mermelstein, Tulemaganbetova's Russian translator and business partner.

"She was very upset because a portion of that money was to buy her children gifts for the holidays, so she was in shock when she got on that plane.”

Tulemaganbetova had to borrow money when she got to Kazakhstan.

But little did she know a little Christmas magic was being performed back in the States.

Not long after the doors on her uptown train closed, an honest passenger found her purse and looked inside for some identification.

But all Richard Taverna saw was a note written in Russian. So he took the purse home to ponder his next move.

That’s when he took another look inside and found an envelope with 100 crisp $100 bills.

"People don't usually carry around that much money so I was pretty surprised when I saw it," Taverna, 63, a retired financial consultant, said. "It wasn't mine, and I knew somebody was in pretty bad shape at that point, was pretty upset.

“It was never any question about turning it in."

He went to the same precinct the next day.

"When I read and see people doing good things, I always think, 'OK, it inspires me to step up,'” Taverna said.

Tulemaganbetova returned to New York earlier this week, and was anxious to meet her hero.

"It was magical to find out when it happened,” she said.

When they met at the precinct Thursday, Tulemaganbetova gave Taverna a gold statue of a soldier she got from Kazakhstan, and made a $1,000 donation in his name to a children's charity there.

She also gave him a huge hug and thanked him in two languages.

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