News.Com.Au: Maija Zlatic, a Serbian woman who inherited $1m from her Australian husband has died, and her neighbours are curious about her fortune
A WOMAN who lived in a mud hut in Serbia despite inheriting almost $1m has died — and her neighbours are suspicious of where her fortune has gone.
A WOMAN who lived in a mud hut in the hills of Serbia despite inheriting almost $1 million from her dead Australian husband has died as she lived — alone and in impoverished conditions.
But just where that money has gone is a mystery and has split the village where she lived, with neighbours suspicious of each other.
The 86-year-old Maija Zlatic made global headlines in January this year 2017 after years of legal wrangling in the NSW courts finally released to her an inheritance of $941,512 and a string of properties about NSW worth another $4 million, following her husband Momcilo’s death there in 2011.
The dual Australian-Serbian national, living as a hermit in the remote village of Valakonje, died in her sleep with her body discovered by neighbours on Wednesday.
Her funeral was held a day later after a coroner ruled natural causes and she was buried in the town of Boljevac.
About 50 people attended her funeral at the orthodox church but that apparently was to see who else would be turning up.
All the talk centred on a group of locals who lived near her who volunteered to “take care of her” shortly after her inheritance made international headlines.
“The people who were ‘taking care of her’ took everything and have even installed cameras to monitor that media or others who tried to approach Marija”, a local told News Corp Australia.
Villagers noted suspiciously when those self-appointed carers bought a new car, then a new tractor and finally made home improvements and ringer her mud hut with security cameras which they monitored, they said, for her own protection.
Now some who knew her are demanding to know where the money was and if there was a will. The carer neighbours were declining to comment yesterday.
Locals in Boljevac said despite her sudden wealth the woman remained living a simple life with no mod cons.
She had electricity hooked up to her mud hut but no running water and lived with her dogs off her Australian pension cheques. She rarely had visitors except the carer locals and had no family.
She and her carpenter husband migrated to Australia in the 1956 and soon after became Australia citizens living in Sydney’s west.
BBC News: “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 in 2015.
The NSW Trustee & Guardian spent years looking for her after Momcilo’s husband named her in his will. They were finally contacted by a Serbian family that had heard he had died and contacted the department which after much probing last August authorised the release of the money and properties including a home in Guildford.
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.