Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Northern Minnesota siblings win $22.8 million lottery prize

Debbie Kujava says she stopped at Holiday Stationstores in Roseau, Minn., to get some pop after work one day early last week when she decided to pick up a few lottery tickets for the March 14 drawing.

Dennis Kujava, his daughter Denise Kujava and sister Debbie Kujava of Badger, Minn., won the $22.8 million Lotto America jackpot last week. Debbie bought the ticket at Holiday Stationstores in Roseau, Minn., and had a pact with her brother that they'd share the proceeds if they ever won the lottery. Denise and her sister, Deanna Kujava (not pictured) also will share in the winnings. (Photo/ Lotto America)
Dennis Kujava, his daughter Denise Kujava and sister Debbie Kujava of Badger, Minn., won the $22.8 million Lotto America jackpot last week. Debbie bought the ticket at Holiday Stationstores in Roseau, Minn., and had a pact with her brother that they'd share the proceeds if they ever won the lottery. Denise and her sister, Deanna Kujava (not pictured) also will share in the winnings. (Photo/ Lotto America)

Debbie Kujava says she stopped at Holiday Stationstores in Roseau, Minn., to get some pop after work one day early last week when she decided to pick up a few lottery tickets for the March 14 drawing.

She bought the Jackpot Bundle, a package of lottery tickets that includes Powerball, Mega Millions, Gopher 5 and Lotto America.

"I thought 'What the heck, just give me the Jackpot Bundle,' " she said. "I put them in my coat pocket and forgot about them."

The morning after the drawing, Kujava says she decided to check the numbers. She noticed she'd won $1 in the Gopher 5 drawing when she checked her final ticket, the Lotto America.

Turns out Kujava and her brother, Dennis, both of Badger, Minn., had won the $22.8 million Lotto America jackpot, but at the time, Kujava says she thought the ticket was worth $2 million.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I looked and I thought, 'Oh my God, it can't be right,'" she said. "I looked at the date, looked at the numbers, put my glasses on top of my head-I wear bifocals-and looked again."

She then called her brother Dennis, who lives about a mile down the road, with the news. The siblings have a longstanding pact that if one wins, they both win.

"I called him and said I think we're millionaires," Kujava, 57, said. "I said, put the coffee on, I'll be right there."

Dennis, 66, was a little skeptical of the news at first, but Debbie said she normally wouldn't be at his house at 8 a.m. It wasn't until Dennis's daughter, Denise, looked online that they discovered their ticket was actually worth $22.8 million.

"I had to go outside because I was just shaking," Debbie recalls.

News of the winning ticket caused an immediate buzz around Roseau County on Thursday, but the brother-and-sister duo managed to keep the winnings a secret until Monday afternoon, when the Kujavas were the stars of a press conference Lotto America hosted in the Twin Cities.

The brother-sister duo and Dennis' two adult daughters, Denise Kujava and Deanna Kujava, all are sharing a portion of the $13.5 million cash option ($9.4 million after required tax withholding). Denise also attended Monday's press conference.

Reached Monday night by cell phone in Big Lake, Minn., on the ride back north from the cities, Debbie Kujava said she worked 12-hour shifts Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at Roseau Area Hospital and Homes, her employer for nearly 40 years.

ADVERTISEMENT

She retired from her job as an LPN at 7 p.m. Sunday after her shift ended.

"My decision was I'd stay the weekend because I didn't want put the nursing home in a bind," she said.

Dennis retired from Polaris Industries in Roseau four years ago.

Neither of the siblings plan to move from their rural Badger homes, but beyond that, they're just trying to absorb the significance of their winnings.

"It's kind of nice, I guess now I can go do whatever I want to do," Dennis Kujava said. "How many people does it happen to? Not very many in a lifetime."

Debbie Kujava said her first priority is paying off her bills and buying a new vehicle. She said she'll donate some money to Concordia Lutheran Church in Ross, Minn., where she and Dennis both are members, and also plans to give money to various charities.

"My big thing is pay off those credit cards," she said. "That's my No. 1 thing, and then I'm going to go from there. I'll pay those bills and be totally debt-free the rest of my life."

Related Topics: ROSEAU
Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
What To Read Next
Artificial intelligence can now act as an artist or a writer. Does that mean AI is ready to play doctor? Many institutions, including Mayo Clinic, believe that AI is ready to become a useful tool.
Josh Sipes was watching an in-flight movie when he became aware the flight crew were asking for help assisting a woman who was experiencing a medical problem.
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.
Crisis pregnancy centers received almost $3 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. Soon, sharing only medically accurate information could be a prerequisite for funding.