Thursday, July 22, 2010

It all started way back in 1962. Frane Selak, a music teacher, was traveling on business from his home to Dubrovnik on the train. Inexplicably the train jumped the track approaching a bridge and plunged down the ravine into the icy river below. Seventeen people were killed but Selak managed to free himself from the wreckage and swim ashore, bruised, battered and with a broken arm he then fought off hypothermia until help arrived. He was just glad to be alive.

One year later in 1963, Frane was once again traveling on business in a plane between Zagreb and Rijeka when the door blew off the plane which sucked Mr. Selak out of the aircraft. Moments later the plane crashed killing all 19 aboard. Selak woke-up in the hospital with only minor cuts and bruises having landed …yes in a haystack.

In 1966 Selak was riding in a bus that hit a slick spot in the road, and skidded into a river. This time only four people were killed but once again Selak escaped with minor cuts and bruises.

Four years later in 1970 while driving along his car caught on fire. He managed to get stopped and jump to safety just as the fuel tank exploded and the car was engulfed in flames.

In 1973 while driving another car, the fuel pump failed, spraying everything under the hood with gasoline. With flames shooting out of the air vents Selak once again jumped to safety. He was basically unhurt except for the loss of the some hair. This is when his friends started calling him “Lucky”.

More than twenty uneventful years passed and Mr. Selak thought his exciting run was over. But in 1995 Frane was crossing a street when an out of control city bus struck him sending him flying onto the concrete. He got up and walked away, suffering only minor injuries.

1996 turned out to be exciting as well. While driving on a mountainous road near his home he was met by out of control United Nations truck heading straight for him. He quickly chose to drive his car into a rail to avoid the head-on collision. The guard rail gave way and his ran straight off the cliff. Again keeping his wits Selak jumped from his vehicle as it plummeted 300 feet down the cliff and exploded. He landed in a tree unhurt once again.

His amazing run came into play again in 2003 when Mr. Selak decided he had enough of cheating death and at the age of 74 figured it was time live the sweet life. He went and purchased a lottery ticket hoping to get rich and retire. Wouldn’t you know it? He won! His prize was slightly more than $1,000,000 dollars from the Croatian National lottery. “I know God was watching me over all these years. I am the world’s unluckiest man, or the world’s luckiest man,” says he insist preferring the latter. He bought a house, a new car and a boat. He then married his long time sweetheart, his fifth marriage. Reflecting, “My marriages have been disasters too. “

In 2004 an Australian Television company offered a staring spot in a series of ads for Doritos, but he turned them down fearing the flight to Sydney and not wanting to “test his luck”.

This may seven years after winning the lotto, and after having cheating death seven times, Mr. Selak decided to give away his remaining fortune. He has decided that "money cannot buy happiness" and has decided to live a frugal life.

He sold his luxury home on a private island, and has given away his fortune to family and friends and moving back to his old modest home in Petrinja, south of Zagreb.

He did keep a small part of his winnings for a hip replacement operation so he could enjoy life with his wife and also so he could build a shrine to the Virgin Mary to give thanks for his luck.

Mr. Selak said he has never been happier.

"All I need at my age is my Katarina. Money would not change anything," he said. When we got married, “I knew then that I really did have a charmed, blessed life.”

What do you think? Lucky or Unlucky!

*as of this writing Mr Selak is still alive and enjoying a hopefully quiet retirement with his wife in Petrinja.

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