Leaving the Royal Marines to live sustainably in the Eastern Cape

Posted on 1 June 2023 By David Henning

‘I was young and didn’t quite know what to do with my life,’ Mischa Dubrovo said about joining the Marines as a 20-year-old. Currently living off the grid on a farm in Haga Haga, Eastern Cape, he has found solace in nature and a place he can become the best version of himself.

Mischa has just published his first book, Guns and Trees, Bullets and Seeds, in which he describes his experiences in the military, struggles with the ethics of war and how he found meaning in nature and becoming a sustainable farmer.  

When discussing his decision to join the army, Mischa alludes to the moral appeasement of being part of the Marines. ‘They appeal to characteristics such as integrity, honour and discipline. 

‘When I got there, I was expecting to be around people who, in their personal capacity at least, aimed to be elite and disciplined… around people who were trying to be the best versions of themselves.’ 

Mischa during his service for the Royal Marines.

Contrary to his assumption, Mischa witnessed scenes involving excessive consumption of alcohol or complacency. Those were only some of the triggering moments that made Mischa question his role in the military. 

‘The speech from the movie The Great Dictator changed my mind and smashed my perceptions to pieces.

‘I was driving in a convoy, and we started talking about the political agendas about the military, killing people and collateral damage. We asked our commanding officer about their thoughts on children and innocent people dying in a war, and they said it was the “unfortunate nature of the job”.

‘That didn’t sit well with me. I asked myself if that was the best version of myself I could give the world.’

Mischa served in the military for two more years after that and said he used this time for ‘reflection, introspection and soul searching’.

‘I joined the military under the pretence that I had to fight,’ Mischa added. ‘But when that illusion broke, I saw that it wasn’t real and asked myself, how else can I serve the world?

‘There’s been a lot of talk about natural destruction, food security, food sovereignty, soil health and the destruction of species, and I thought, okay, maybe that’s what I should do.’

Today, Mischa lives in a small holding in Haga Haga in the Eastern Cape, having found his solace in nature. His book also touches on sustainable living practices and how we can all make a difference in our small ways.

‘There’s a lot of ills in the world you could champion, but you can’t do them all because then you risk spreading yourself too thin, which defeats the purpose. So, I chose food and taught others how to grow it healthily and sustainably.

‘I live according to a triad of meaning, love, connection and responsibility, and I’ve fallen in love with nature’. It makes sense that he acts as a custodian for nature, feels deeply connected to it and takes responsibility for his environment.

Mischa also uses skills he learned in the Marines to lead an anti-poaching effort with Mozambique Wild Adventures in Mozambique’s Niassa Province. This operation will involve preventing fish poisoning, animal poisoning and snare traps.

‘The wide variety of species in the area include lion, buffalo, wild dog, eland, sable, hyena, crocodile, elephant, and many more. We conduct most of our patrols on foot and in vehicles, but we are working towards using aerial tools to strengthen our conservation methods.’

You can read a preview of Guns and Trees, Bullets and Seeds and order the book here

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