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Sunday, 16 February 2014
Homeless Hungarian man hits lottery jackpot with his last few coins
László Andraschek plans to use Hungary's biggest win of £1.7m to set up foundation for addicts and abused women
László Andraschek, a homeless Hungarian man who won the country’s largest lottery prize of 630m forint. Photograph: H Baranyai Edina/BorsOnline
Unemployed, in debt and facing another year living on the streets in Hungary, László 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 one of Hungary's biggest lottery winners, with a prize of about £1.7m.
Andraschek, whose 630m Hungarian forint win last September 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."
But 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, north-west 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 3m."
As neither he nor his wife can drive, the car will be driven only by his children.
Andraschek has since bought flats 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, Anikó, 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."
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 organised a wave of protests worldwide against a new Hungarian law that bans sleeping rough, in a country that has 30,000 homeless people. Last week alone, demonstrations were held in front of Hungarian embassies and consulates in London, Paris, New York, Vienna, Lisbon, Dublin, Brussels, Essen and Istanbul. Next weekend a Hungarian NGO run by homeless people, A Város Mindenkié (The City is for All), will stage another protest in Budapest against the law, which threatens those living on the streets with a fine or imprisonment.