Two months following an American Lottery win, Debbie Kujava and Dennis Kujava, her brother are getting accustomed to their new millionaire lives.
The Lotto America ticket that Debbie purchased on Tuesday, 13 March as a section of a Jackpot Bundle in Roseau, Minn, at Holiday Stationstores was valued at $22.8 million, and the cash option of $13.5 million she selected was reduced to $9.4 million after the tax withholding required.
The winning odds were around 1 in 24 million, stated Debbie Kujava. She maintained secrecy until 19 March when Lotto America publicized it.
Information that the ticket that won had originated from Roseau Holiday had circulated in the town for a number of days.
‘I enquired from work colleagues, ‘Are you aware of who the winner is?’ she remembers, laughing.
‘They said, ‘Just wait and see. It is going to be a wealthy person who is driving past town and they made a stop and purchased a ticket.’
‘I agreed and said you can’t tell. However, I think we will find out.’
An agreement existed between the siblings about splitting the winnings if they became lottery winners. Therefore, Debbie shared the money with Dennis who subsequently split his share with Denise and Deanna, his daughters.
In the middle of many celebrations, the Kujavas obtained their cash towards the end of March at Roseville, Minn, at the Minnesota Lottery headquarters.
According to state regulation, it was not lawful for them to remain anonymous.
‘Down in the Cities, I informed them that at my age, I can’t utilize the entire cash,’ remarked 66-year-old Dennis. ‘I cannot even attempt to. Therefore, it is the reason I divided it up. I thought it would provide them with a good beginning in life. If they fail to succeed now, they never will.’
A new standard
Somehow, life continues normally for the two siblings. They are accustomed to toiling hard all through their lives. They live in rural Roseau County near Ross, only down the road from one another. Fifty-seven-year-old Debbie retired from her job after working for almost forty years at Lifecare Manor in Roseau as an LPN when she became a lottery winner. Four years back, Dennis retired from Polaris in Roseau. He had worked there for 19 years and more.
The Kujavas have purchased numerous new ‘toys’ and are going to distribute to several local charities. However, the indications of their latest financial stand are not evident at all.
Talking about how his life changed after the fortune, Dennis said, ‘for me, nothing.’ ‘The only item I have bought now is farm machinery.’
It is possible for Dennis to claim the machinery, inclusive of a second-hand Case IH tractor he had bought the day before as a write-off for tax, to offset the effect of the higher tax bracket that the Kujavas are now in.
He said, ‘I can use it on the farm.’
In some ways, their latest financial standing has led to changes that none of them had imagined just weeks back. Debbie finalized the 3 12-hr nursing home shifts she was programmed to work before becoming a lottery winner and 34-year-old Denise Kujava stopped working at Polaris. Today, Deanna, Dennis’ daughter who is 40 resides in New Jersey. It is a step she had intended to take anyway.
Debbie said, ‘If we work, our efforts will be for nothing, so we will not.’
‘Other people might think that we have won $22.8 million but the reality is that it is actually the same as $6 million or $7 million.’
The winnings will go through more deduction due to the 2018 income taxes; nevertheless, the Kujavas are ready for the impending future.
‘We have no complaints; it made our lives different,’ comments Debbie and adds that her first priority was settling a number of bills.
‘Now I am more at peace,’ she stated. ‘My old self has been restored. I used to be very unsettled, making an attempt to pay bills. I could not keep up with credit cards but am now settled.’
Wild Few Weeks
Since the lottery win, Debbie says life has flown past. The first week consisted of live interviews and a couple of visits to Minnesota Lottery headquarters. Here, bodyguards were even present, which triggered a lot of pressure.
When Dennis remembers this she laughs.
‘She was extremely panicky when we went there, and before we went inside the headquarters she had to smoke outside.
They have obtained a lot of phone calls, text messages and greetings from Facebook, from people commending them, she comments. Individuals from throughout the area usually identify them when they go to convenience stores or other areas that are public.
‘Even now, each day I receive 3, 4 or 5 phone calls,’ said Dennis.
Also, some hostile episodes have occurred, says Debbie. For instance, a woman continuously hounded her on Facebook Messenger, requesting for $25,000 to clear medical bills.
‘Many people ask for things; however, this woman was calling me on Messenger phone and I simply ignored the calls,’ said Debbie Kujava.
In the end, Deanna, Debbie’s niece created a block to avoid more calls from the lady.
‘She wanted to elicit pity, but again, not everything you hear is true,’ said Debbie. ‘It might be true or not.’
The Kujavas are being assisted by a Roseau financial adviser to help them to control their winnings, and state that they intend to make several donations such as buying two trailers that are wheelchair-accessible.
A local firm is manufacturing them for people who live in the nursing home that had employed Debbie. In addition, they plan to make donations to the Middle River, Minn. Trails for Treatments (nonprofit). It offers sponsorship for cancer sufferers and donations to Concordia Lutheran Church, which is nearby, as well as a neighborhood hockey rink.
Apart from settling her debts, Debbie purchased a 2017 holdover Corvette. She commented laughing that she did not plan to disclose this. She also bought a camper to use for family events and weekend outings, for instance, a yearly family meeting at Lake Bronson State Park on Memorial Day weekend.
She decided not to buy a $140,000 motorhome (decked-out), with hardwood cabinetry and granite countertops, although she can currently afford it.
‘As I explored it, I thought, gosh, this is not real.’
However, it is not practical and does not suit me,’ she remarked. ‘So I went to check the small ones. It consists of a small bathroom that has a shower. I have a big couch that can fold into a bed as well as a queen bed in the back on one side. That is all I require.’
‘Now it is not necessary for me to live with anyone. I have my individual space. I can close door and take a nap for any length of time I wish, with no one to disturb me.’
She purchased a second hand 4×4 Chevy Silverado pickup (2013) to pull the camper. ‘The truck did not have any scratch and the deal I got was great,’ she commented about the truck. It had 36,000 actual miles and it appeared brand new.
Dennis took a loan and purchased a Chevy 4×4 truck (2018). He could have easily paid cash. But according to him, doing this earns the bank some profits.
He said, ‘To me it’s not a big deal. They would still tax me and this is the same as the interest I am paying. Therefore, they also gain some money.
No Major Changes
Regardless of their new riches, the Kujavas indicate that their friends treat them the same way.
‘That is the advantage of residing in a small society,’ said Dennis. ‘I believe you do not experience harassment like you would in a larger town.’
As the excitement reduces and life continues in a new but normal way, the Kujavas state that they have to intentions to tour the globe. Apart from the upcoming journey to Lake Bronson, this summer they want to go to Michigan to visit family.
‘Today, I do not have to be concerned about cash when we travel,’ says Debbie. She plans to participate in Moondance Jam in July near Walker, Minn. It is a classic rock get-together.