Frano Selak – Truly the World’s (Un)Luckiest Man

What would you call a man who has managed to cheat death seven times, and also win the lottery? ‘World’s luckiest man’, might just be an understatement. But that’s exactly the story of Frano Selak, an 81-year-old music teacher from Croatia.

At first glance, there’s nothing noticeably special about Selak. He looks pretty much like your average, everyday octogenarian. But the life this man has lived is quite extraordinary. He survived one plane crash, several train and car wrecks and other disasters such as falling out of a plane through a door that was blown open, only to land on a haystack. Obviously lady luck’s favorite son, the icing on Selak’s record came when he won a £600,000 (almost $1 million) lottery about 7 years ago, on the occasion of his fifth marriage. Until recently, he owned a luxury home on a private island and a vast fortune. But Selak realized that “money cannot buy happiness,” so he sold his home, gave away his fortune to family and friends and moved back to his old home – a modest dwelling in Petrinja, south of Zagreb, right in the middle of Croatia. The only bit of winnings that he kept for himself was to pay for a hip replacement operation and to build a shrine to the Virgin Mary as a way of thanks for his luck. He now enjoys his life with his wife in his humble home.

Selak’s first brush with fate came when he was traveling from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik in 1962. The train he was on jumped the rails and fell into an icy river below. While 17 people drowned in the accident, he escaped with a bout of hypothermia, shock, a few bruises and a broken arm. The second time was just a year later, on his first and only flight from Zagreb to Rijeka. The cockpit door flew open and threw him out; 19 people died but Selak landed on a haystack. In 1966, he was traveling on a bus that skidded into a river. 4 people drowned, while Selak swam to safety with a few cuts and bruises. 1970 saw his fourth accident, when the car he was driving caught fire on a motorway. Luckily, he was able to flee the car mere moments before the fuel tank exploded. Just three years later, his car gave him trouble again. The faulty fuel pump sprayed petrol over the hot engine, blowing flame through the air vents. This time around, he lost most of his hair, but the rest of him was intact.

That’s quite a record already, and if you’re thinking Selak had had quite enough, well, you will be surprised that there was more to come. His sixth and seventh accidents happened in consecutive years – 1995 and 96. In ‘95 he was knocked down by a bus in Zagreb, but he suffered only minor injuries. In 96, a UN truck came straight at him when he was driving around a corner in the mountains. He crashed through the barrier and down the 300 ft precipice. Thankfully, at the last minute he was able to leap out of the car and land on a tree, while his car hit the bottom and exploded. After I read about all of Selak’s escapades, I did wonder if he is indeed lucky or actually unlucky. It seems to me as though fate was after him with a vengeance and he got away each time out of his sheer presence of mind. But as though life was trying to compensate for all the rough times he was put through, he won the lottery as a nice finishing touch.


Selak says he’s never been happier, now that he’s given away most of his wealth. “All I need at my age is my Katarina. Money would not change anything,” he says. For a man who’s been through so much, it’s surprising that he considers his wife to be his sign of good luck. “When she arrived, I knew then that I really did have a charmed, blessed life. I never thought I was lucky to survive all my brushes with death. I thought I was unlucky to be in them in the first place.” But people waste no time in telling him that he’s very lucky. To that he says, “You can’t tell people what they don’t want to believe.”

Source: The Telegraph

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