Homeless Hungarian hits lottery jackpot with his last coins

The Guardian, BUDAPEST

Tue, Feb 18, 2014 - Page 7

Unemployed, in debt and facing another year living on the streets in Hungary, Laszlo Andraschek spent his last remaining coins on a lottery ticket. Now the formerly homeless man has a choice of accommodation around the world after becoming Hungary’s biggest ever lottery winner with a prize of about 630 million forint (US$2.85 million).

Andraschek, whose win in September last year went unnoticed until he made a significant donation to a hostel for the homeless this month, said buying the ticket was a chance decision at a railway station on his way to Budapest for a workshop for recovering alcoholics.

“I had only picked six numbers and the female shop assistant reminded me that I needed to pick a seventh,” he said. “I told her to make it 24 — it doesn’t matter anyway.”

However, he was wrong and now plans to use his winnings to establish a foundation for addicts and women abused by their husbands.

The 55-year-old resident of Gyor, Hungary, said his first act was to repay his debts, before cycling to a car dealer.

“When the car salesman asked me how much I would be willing to spend, I held up three fingers. As I had arrived on a bike, he assumed this meant 300,000 forints, but actually I meant 3 million,” he said.

As neither he nor his wife can drive, the car will be driven only by his children.

Andraschek has since bought apartments for each of his three children, paid off the debts of his relatives and is planning to travel to Italy, having not previously held a passport.

He and his wife, Aniko, said they will invest their money cautiously and avoid the ruinous spending splurges of many a lottery winner.

“I have become rich, but I have not become a different person. I could buy a large-screen TV because I can afford it, but I won’t buy three because I can afford it,” he said.

Having struggled with alcoholism, Andraschek finally quit five years ago and says he “now has no need to return.”

The news of Andraschek’s dramatic upturn in fortunes came as human rights activists organized a wave of protests worldwide against a new law that bans sleeping rough, in a country that has 30,000 homeless people.