Hakmat Yalda and his wife came to the U.S. to escape the war in Iraq- and received a lottery check of $1 million on the 10th anniversary of the US invasion.
Yalda and his wife rejoiced in Assyrian and English as they accepted the check.
“I can’t stand on my legs. I can’t stand on my legs. I’m so happy. I can barely feel my legs,” Yalda said in Assyrian.
Yalda and his wife were in Baghdad with their two young sons at the time of the invasion.
They are Assyrian Christian and felt endangered in Iraq. Five years ago, they immigrated to Chicago.
Yalda, 43, became a janitor, cleaning building in the Loop.
“No matter what happens to your country, you leave it and you still have the same feeling for your country. No matter what’s happening in your country,” said Yalda in his native tongue.
“It brings tears to your eyes, actually. What was it like to have a three-year-old at the beginning of the war ten years ago. And then to find yourself 10 years later& and you’ve just won a million dollars,” said Michael Jones, Illinois Lottery Superintendent.
Yalda bought the winning ticket for the March 6th drawing from the 7-Eleven on Bryn Mawr and Kimball in Chicago.
He says he walked up to the counter and learned he had won four dollars in the previous drawing. He decided to play Powerball again.
Yalda missed the drawing on TV, and was stunned when he showed his numbers to a store clerk.
“She tells me, ‘You won.’ I tell her, ‘How much I won?’ She tells me $1 million. I tell her, ‘No you’re joking for me.’ She said, ‘I swear to God, $1 million. You won,'” Yalda said.
The couple plans to buy a house. But Yalda is not planning to quit his janitor job.
Nor is he quitting the lottery. He has two quick picks for Wednesday’s Powerball drawing. The jackpot is $260 million.
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