Almost 20 years ago, Panta Petrovic made social distancing his lifestyle, moving to a small cave in Serbia to avoid contact with society.
Last year, on one of his visits to the village, the man with braids and a long beard discovered that there was a pandemic. When the vaccines for covid-19 were out, he was inoculated and now urges everyone to do the same.
The virus “does not choose, it will come here too, to my cave,” the 70-year-old man told AFP in the forested mountain of Stara Planina in southern Serbia.
The cave where Petrovic lives can only be reached after a steep climb, and is not for the faint of heart.
It is equipped with a rusty bathtub that he uses as a toilet, some benches, and a bale of hay that serves as his bed.
Petrovic hails from the neighboring town of Pirot, where he worked as a laborer on the black market, as he did abroad for some time. He was married several times, in a lifestyle that he considers “frenzied”.
This nature lover gradually discovered that isolating himself from society gave him a freedom that he had not known before.
“I was not free in the city. There is always someone on your way, you argue with your wife, neighbors or the police,” Petrovic told AFP while peeling some vegetables for his lunch.
“Nobody bothers me here,” he added with a smile that revealed his neglected teeth.
Petrovic usually feeds on mushrooms and fish he takes from a nearby ravine, but he also goes down to the city looking for scraps in garbage dumps.
His visits to the city have become more frequent lately.
After the wolves killed some of the animals he had near the cave, Petrovic decided to move them to a hut he built on the outskirts of the town where he believes they will be safe.
He had several goats, chickens, about 30 cats and dogs, and his favorite, an adult wild boar named Mara.
When Petrovic found her eight years ago, she was a little pig stuck in the bushes, and he cared for her until she recovered.
Now the intimidating 200-kilo creature plays in the creek and eats apples from Petrovic’s hand.
“She is everything to me, I love her and she listens to me. There is no money that can buy something like that, a real pet”, he commented.
He also has three kittens whose mother was killed by a wolf, and now he feeds them with a syringe.
Petrovic receives social assistance, but also depends on donations of food and supplies for the animals.
When vaccines were available, he rolled up his sleeves and put them on.
Petrovic said he does not understand the complaints made by some skeptics, and claims to believe in a process that seeks to eradicate diseases.
“I want to receive the three doses, including the additional one, I call all citizens to get vaccinated, each one of them,” he said.
Before isolating himself, Petrovic donated all the money he had to the community, financing the construction of three small bridges in the town.
“Money is a curse, it spoils people. I think nothing corrupts people like money,” said Petrovic.
On one of the bridges, Petrovic built a dovecote to which he, despite his advanced age, climbs to leave breadcrumbs that he collects while rummaging in garbage cans.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.