How Life Changed For Lottery Winner

Barbara Turnbull
Living Reporter

Money can't buy happiness, but it can open bathroom doors at the bank.

That was one of the first differences $6.5 million brought to Christina Hawrylowicz, when she took the cheque from her winning Super 7 lottery ticket to her bank branch. It took longer to process than she'd imagined and she had to pee.

"(The manager) said, `We don't do this for the average customer,'" Hawrylowicz recalls, laughing.

That was one year ago and the single mother of four, who had been eking out an existence on disability support for nine years, had become a multimillionaire overnight.

Since then all kinds of doors have opened, but Hawrylowicz is careful about which ones she steps through.

Life was more challenging, yet simpler, before "the win," as she calls it.

"We'd come out to the park like this and play ball, that was our activity," she says, sitting in a park near her current home, one of four properties she's purchased over the last several months.

It's still a favourite activity and on this sunny day, her eight-month-old Labrador, Sally, is working off energy with any dog that comes close. Sally, a dog Hawrylowicz had always wanted, was one of the first purchases.

She says she was always a positive person and a calm one - that hasn't changed. "There are things that money can't buy and it's inside that you've got to figure it out and let go of what is really unhealthy," she says.

She hangs on to what has worked, like the sandals she has worn for years, showing off the tattered insoles. "These shoes are so old, but they're comfortable. This is me."

A strong spiritual belief has served her well, along with the tarot cards she reads regularly.

There have been luxury purchases - she bought some exotic pets, getting the idea from the Barenaked Ladies' classic "If I Had a Million Dollars," playing on the radio during that first bank visit. Her family of parrots numbers four, including a $25,000 hand-raised hyacinth macaw, the most exotic of the parrot species and the most endangered.

Her kids wanted a Cadillac Escalade, a $100,000 vehicle that got smacked on the first day, but Hawrylowicz doesn't sweat the small stuff. It's a balancing act to indulge the kids - a 31-year-old son, 18-year-old daughter and 8-year-old twins - without letting them have everything they want.

Travel has been limited, just one cruise with her daughter. The interest is there, but not the confidence. "I still have to get over this leap of insecurity about keeping them secure in a foreign land," she says.

It's scary to become so rich overnight. Studies show a majority of instant winners feel guilty, confused, anxious, invaded and threatened.

Hawrylowicz had her share of uncomfortable encounters: people calling out of the blue and calling frequently, some asking for money. One person she gave money to actually asked for more. Some borrowed cash and never paid it back.

She had to learn how to say, "Take a hike," she says. "It's not me who changed, they changed. They weren't looking at me in the same way. They were looking at the lottery win."

She mentions a winning couple she saw who stood in the spotlight, unsmiling. "I knew why they weren't doing the happy dance," she says. "Sometimes money creates problems in families as well. It's not what people think it is."

What did make her smile was the look on her children's faces and, surprising to her, the happiness many felt for her, telling her she was exactly who should win the lottery. "Look, I still get goosebumps," she says, genuinely moved.

She has a perfect image of this windfall. "If you had a bag of sand, it's like people are poking little holes and some people are jabbing with a larger thing," she says.

"I want to secure it, because it's my kids' future and from living on an income of $2,000 a month to making more than that in interest -" she pauses. "You don't want to lose that."

Hawrylowicz has a team in place to help her manage that bag of sand.

Now 48, she is grateful she was single when "The win" came in and isn't looking for romance, but hopes it finds her someday. Many men are intimidated by wealth of that magnitude, she's found.

Though she is aware of others' judgments and ideas, she follows her gut instincts. Financial freedom is a blessing she intends to hold on to.

"I'm in charge," she says.

Accessibility News Note:

We find it rather disturbing the people who say that she shouldn't be playing lotteries when she is on Government assistance, this became even more so when we heard CFRB 1010 radio talk show host Ryan Doyle use his show on Monday July 28th to ven on the matter. It was his opinion that no one on Disability assistance should be allowed to buy lottery tickets and that she should have to pay back the money among other items. We found his comments very disturbing and if you agree or disagree you can email him at Feel free to email Accessibility News a copy at

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