Batman and I
By Radovan Stoklasa
While reading a newspaper, I saw a photo of a man with a mask climbing a wall to get into an apartment. I thought it was a joke. After a few days I saw a television interview with him. The interview was quite interesting and I decided to meet him and find out whether it was a joke or if it was for real.
Getting out from the car in Dunajska Streda, a city in south Slovakia, I heard a strong male voice say “Hey you!” As I turned around I saw a huge indigenous gypsy. “Wanna see Batman?” he asked. I nodded.
The man endowed with a strong voice cried toward an abandoned house “Batmaaaaannn, Batmaaaaannn” but the response was silence. The huge gypsy came up with a great plan B and called Batman on his cell phone, but he was unreachable. So I left to pursue Batman in the center of the town, where he was supposed to pass his free time. I was wandering through the alleys of the town, asking the locals about the masked man without success; Batman’s cell phone was still dead. After more than one hour, my phone suddenly rang and there was batman on the other end of the line. We set up a meeting.
Zoltan Kohari came to the meeting, a 26 year old man in leather trousers and a cloak, just like the image I saw in newspapers and on television, but without a mask. In the interview he spoke about himself, the town, neighbors, a difficult past, unanswered questions about his family – and his eyes seemed sad. I asked about his role as Batman and a shine returned to his face. With all seriousness he said Batman is a symbol of justice and that he wants to be just and that he is the real Batman (better than the actor in the movie). After a long chat he invited me to tour his hideout.
The door to the abandoned house was blocked, so we had to climb up to the first floor through a window. Pieces of glass were everywhere. It was messy and smelly and a rat made his escape down the stairs. I entered a dirty room with just a table and a bed. Pieces of clothing were scattered all around the floor. The window was decorated with the Batman symbol and there was a painting as well – a portrait of Batman. Kohari eagerly showed all his treasures, but whenever I pointed my camera at him, he froze and posed for the picture. He enjoyed having photos taken of him, and that is wonderful, but I would have been happier if I did not have his full attention.
Even though I felt comfortable in the house, I was glad when we returned to daylight. We said our goodbyes, and Zoltan left to meet his friend. I returned to the capital to shoot the parliamentary elections.
But the story does not end there. After I sent the photos to desk, I was asked to continue the story with more pictures of the life of the Slovak Batman. The next morning I set out with correspondent Jan Lopatka to visit Batman. The story repeated itself. Batman was not at home, he didn’t answer his phone and we couldn’t find him downtown. Waiting was irritable, but every journalist is used to it.
I wondered whether I would be lucky enough to meet Batman twice in this lifetime. Just as I decided to leave, Kohari approached our car, this time dressed as a civilian with a badge of Batman on his coat. He apologized, saying he was busy helping guard his friend’s shop while he was away.
We went together towards his home and the man disappeared inside – changing into Batman. We spent our free time together, people greeted him and shook his hand and children asked to have pictures taken with him. We met his neighbors and got to know this interesting person who had decided to help others despite being poor.
We took one last picture with the Batman and returned back to reality, to Bratislava and covering the parliamentary elections. I already knew the pictures of politicians shaking hands would not be half as interesting as the story of a man with the soul of a boy.