Panta Petrović has been living in a cave on the forested Stara Planina mountain for almost 20 years, away from modern civilization and in the company of both domestic and wild animals, including a 200-kilogram boar named Mara.
The man recently made international headlines after Agence France Press reported that even he had gotten a Covid-19 vaccine, even though he hardly interacts with other people.
Almost twenty years ago, Panta made social distancing a lifestyle choice when he moved into a tiny Serbian mountain cave to avoid society. Last year, on one of his visits to town, he found out there was a pandemic raging.
After vaccines against Covid-19 became available, he got jabbed and urges everyone to do the same.
However, in his Serbia, he has been making headlines for at least the last five years as everyone in the area around Petrovac city, in south-eastern part of the country, knows who he is, because of his unique lifestyle.
Basically he live as a hermit, spending half the year in a wooden treehouse in the middle of nowhere, and the other half in a 25-meter-long cave hidden in the canyon of Gradašnička river.
He wanted to go back to the basics and get away from modern civilization.
The 70-year-old man spends his days taking care of his dozens of pets and enjoying the freedom that a life without material possessions offers.
He wasn’t always like this though, in fact, he remembers a time when he cared a lot about making money, using his mastery of several useful crafts to fill his pockets.
At the time he had a lot of friends but as usual, as his purse ran dry, most of them disappeared.
“I didn’t fit in that world anymore, and you can’t buy this kind of freedom for any money. You don’t get a bill for electricity, water…and you have all the most valuable things that nature gives you,” he said in a 2017 interview with the Anatolia News Agency.
The cave he calls home is accessible only by a steep climb that is not for the fainthearted. It is equipped with an old rusty bathtub which he uses as a toilet, some benches and a stack of hay that serves as a bed.
There he bathes in the river, warms himself by a fire he starts in a barrel, and never complains about the lack of modern amenities.
Actually, he prefers life this way.
Having once lived in a regular home, he claims being a hermit is a million times better and adds that he would gladly consult anyone willing to follow in his footsteps for free.
“When I had money, I had no health, and now, when I have no money, I have recovered and I live happily. When I had a lot of money I had a lot of friends, but after slowly running out of money, my friends were nowhere to be found, so now I am left with animals, but also a few real friends with whom I spend long winter nights in the cave,” Panta said.
In fact he shares his modest cave dwelling with dozens of pets, including chickens, ducks, goats, dogs, cats, and even a full-grown wild boar!
She stumbled into his cave one day, about six years ago, as a piglet, to hide from dogs or hunters that had most likely killed her mother.
She never left.
Panta took her in and raised her as a pet.
Her name is Mara, and she drinks two liters of milk every day, so he keep goats because of her. He tamed her, and she does everything Panta want.
The piglet that walked into his cave six years ago weighed only nine kilograms, but today she is over 200-kilograms-heavy.
She doesn’t always get along with the other pets, but he knows how to keep them separated to avoid trouble.
Even if it seems wonderful, living alone in a cave isn’t easy, and Panta Petrović admits that things aren’t always perfect.
He sometimes misses human company, and wolves sometimes kill his beloved pets, but they rarely bother him.
The “wolves from the city“, are another matter entirely, though.
“It is difficult to fight wolves, but it is the most difficult to deal with those wolves that come from the city, those that walk on two legs. Various drug addicts come here, I have found syringes in my cave many times, they destroy everything, they break my plates, and they throw my stove into the river. They cause a lot of trouble for me,” he said.
Either way, even though he decided to run away from civilization many years ago to go live in a cave, he is very respected in the rural area around Petrovac. Some people visit him and bring him supplies and food for the animals, and many know him as a master craftsman who still puts his knowledge to good use in the interest of everyone.
During his years as a cave hermit, Panta single-handedly built three bridges at his own expense, two across the Gradašnička river and one to a monastery on the way from Pirot to Knjaževac.
All popularly known as Panta’s Bridges.
After a “life without happiness“, about which doesn’t want to talk about, Panta Petrović went back to the basics, to life in the middle of nature, surrounded by animals.
Of course It’s not for everyone, but he claims it was the best thing that ever happened to him!
Images from web – Google Research