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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Unemployed Woman Wins $1M

A few weeks ago, she was an unemployed factory worker scraping by with her equally jobless husband and two sons in a three-room apartment in the rump end of the country. Today, she might well be the wealthiest woman in all of the republic of Bashkortostan.

And, unlike many seriously rich New Russians, Nadezhda Mukhametzyanova can say she came by her money honestly.

Mukhametzyanova was presented to the public Wednesday as the winner of the first television lottery prize in Russia to exceed $1 million. To be precise, her jackpot totaled 29,814,000 rubles, the equivalent of about $1,050,000.

Although a million dollars may not mean so much in some parts of the world, it remains a very tidy sum in the regional capital, Ufa.

Under tax law governing gambling winnings, the state will claim 35 percent of her take.

Mukhametzyanova, a small 47-year-old with hennaed hair, was still somewhat in a daze when she faced the cameras in Moscow.

"I think that I still have not fathomed the whole thing yet," she said.

She said she wasn't watching the popular televised lottery "The Bingo Show" on Dec. 30, the night her winning numbers were called.

"I came home one evening, and my husband said all of a sudden, 'Don't get nervous now, but can you figure out in your head how much is 35 percent of 29?' I said, '29 what, 29,000?' He goes, 'No, 29 million!' I nearly lost the ability to speak.

"I still have not quite gotten used to being rich," she confessed, saying she has no idea how she will spend the money — but she plans to give at least part of it away.

On a dark note, her husband said his happiness has already turned to fear. "As it often happens in life, big joy brings big problems," said Rustem Mukhametzyanov, 42, who stayed at home in Ufa but was reached by telephone Wednesday night.

"We are in great danger because of this money — we may even get killed. There are a lot of people full of envy and greed … gangsters who kill for a hundred rubles, to say nothing of a million dollars," he said. "It scares me even to think what they'd do to us for a million dollars."

Lotteries and bingo parlors became a huge craze shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but garnered a bad reputation because so many of the games were dishonest and purported winners were never able to track down the organizers to collect their winnings.

"The Bingo Show" wanted to show that this time the game was legitimate. All the money Mukhametzyanova won "has been transferred to a special bank account, and no one except for her can withdraw this money," said Sergei Lavrenyov, a spokesman for the program. He called it "the record largest in the entire history of Russian lotteries." The jackpot had grown so large because there were no winners in the previous 11 drawings.

Rustem Mukhametzyanov said he, his wife and their sons, Alexei, 12, and Rustem, 8, have hardly had time to figure out what they will do, but he is pretty sure that they will be moving out of the city.

"We are just ordinary Russians. We don't go to restaurants, we just stay at home most of the time, and our tastes and requirements are not really posh," he said. They have an ordinary, Soviet-style apartment, the cookie-cutter type that sells for about $10,000, and have never owned a car.

"We will definitely buy one," he said. "I am personally thinking about a foreign make."

Neither he nor his wife has a higher education, and both had worked in the same casting shop for the state-owned motor-making enterprise in Ufa, which has fallen on hard times. His wife lost her job in 1997, he said, and he became unemployed eight months ago after 21 years at the plant.

"Life has been hard for us, especially lately," he said. "It is very difficult to raise two children … when you are out of a job. So this prize is a tremendous help. With this money, we will be able to lead a decent life and make sure our kids have a decent life too.

"When I realized how much we have won, I could not believe it at first. I just felt all my body trembling with some unknown mixture of fear and joy — I nearly fell dead on the ground."

Now, he said, he wants "to just disappear from this city and move to a new place, so people forget about us. … This is the only way we'll be better off."

Alexei Kuznetsov contributed to this report.