[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ELGRADE, SERBIA – An elderly hermit living in a mud hut in the Serbian mountains inherited a fortune from her estranged husband in Australia but swiftly gave it all away to live off her meager pension.
Marija Zlatic, 86, lives in a mud hut in mountainous eastern Serbia and heard five years ago that her estranged husband, living in Australia, had died.
She tasked a neighbour with finding out more information in 2011, and learned of her fortune late last year.
Marija has since donated all the money to the community that looks after her.
“I don’t need my money,” she told the B92 website (in Serbian). “It’s enough for me to have bread, water and wood so I can keep warm in winter.”
“Where I am going soon I do not need money, so I gave it away. They need it more.”
Marija told the website she and her husband, Momcilo, moved to Guildford in Western Australia in 1956.
He worked as a carpenter in a factory, and she as a housewife, but Marija returned to Serbia after 18 months to care for her ailing mother.
Marija never returned to Australia after her mother’s death, but kept in contact by letter with Momcilo, who she said was keen to return to Serbia once he retired.
Word reached Serbia that Momcilo went on to own cattle ranches – something Marija did not believe. In 2011, Marija heard rumours he had died.
She asked her neighbour, named only as M, to search for more information. M, told the Vecernje Novosti newspaper (in Serbian) that she hit dead-ends with the Australian embassy in Belgrade and the Serbian embassy in Australia.
But she was able to confirm Momcilo’s death through lawyers in Australia, and, after a four-year search, received confirmation of his wealth last year.
Marija said his ranches were worth close to A$3m ($2.1m, £1.5m) but the inheritance was reduced to A$940,000 once taxes were deducted.
M said that Marija promised her 30% of the inheritance for her work. But M told Serbian media other members of the community had not given her what she had been promised.
Marija’s neighbours continue to visit her home and chop wood for her to burn, she said. Her dogs remained her best friends, she added.