A former forces wife’s tale

I was born in Belgium but grew up in Zurich/Switzerland. My parents only ever spoke French to me and my (younger) sister, so we were both really lucky to grow up bilingual French/German. I’d say that I have very much a French culture as I grew up with French nursery rhymes, French music and virtually all my school holidays were spent in my mum’s family in Liege/Belgium.
When I turned 21, I left the family home to move to Geneva/Switzerland. I worked in the banking industry and worked my way up to a Relationship Manager (Private Banking) and an Assistant Vice President. Life was pretty good!

At 32, I met a British soldier on leave… after a whirlwind summer romance, he proposed, I accepted and the following summer we got married. I dropped my very glamorous lifestyle in Switzerland and moved into a “married quarter” in Northern Ireland. The day after I landed at Belfast, I had to go to a briefing for new “army dependants”… we were shown what a car bomb looked like and how to look for it every day before driving off. A few months into life as an army wife, I accepted a job as a linguist with Microsoft in Derry. It paid about 5 times less than what I had been earning in my “previous” life…

After 18 months in Northern Ireland, our battalion was posted to Shropshire. Our daughter was born there in 2006. When she was about 10 weeks old, the battalion including my husband got deployed to Iraq. It was a difficult time for me as the birth of our daughter had been traumatic, and I was in poor health. Add to that the stresses and worries of a deployment to a war zone… two of our soldiers never returned.

In 2007, we were posted to Germany for 3 years. The battalion was again deployed to Iraq. My husband got into serious trouble whilst deployed and lost his rank as a consequence. I also suffered a miscarriage and also needed surgery a few months later.

In 2010, we were posted from Germany directly to Cyprus for 2 years. I suffered another miscarriage.

2012 saw our return to England. My marriage was rocky to say the least. Things were really difficult, but I found full time employment in 2013, which allowed me to become again more independent. In 2015, I joined the Military Wives Choirs, and I also started to manage a girls U11 football team (my daughter played there).

My husband and I were attending Relate sessions, but he missed most of them as he was busy getting into major trouble again. He narrowly escaped being discharged but lost both his ranks. I carried on with my job and choir. With choir I had the opportunity to attend a few high profile military events and became proficient in singing “God Save the Queen”…

In April 2016, my husband asked me for a divorce. I asked him for a month’s grace before announcing it to the “world”. After a week, everyone knew. I went house hunting for me and my daughter. A week before the vote of doom, I exchanged contracts on a new property in Lincoln. The day after the vote, I called the solicitor in tears, asking if I could pull out of the purchase. Sadly, it was too late for that. In October 2016, my daughter and I moved to our new home.

In March 2017, my then employer announces the closure of the UK facilities. One of the reasons given was Brexit and it’s uncertainties. Especially as it is a business active in the agricultural industry, farmers’ EU subsidies were a major concern for our owners… So I had to look for new employment. For a “newly” single mum with a mortgage and without a British passport, I was a little panicked to say the least. However, I very soon found a job, a similar role (Export Coordinator), so at least I knew I could keep our roof over our heads.

I haven’t slept properly since the EU referendum. Things were already tough with the separation from my husband. It felt like another rejection within a short period of time. At least the divorce from my ex is “friendly” and he did vote “remain”.

My daughter has all 3 passports (British/Swiss/Belgium), the Belgian one, I had it done for her after the vote. So, I hope, that she will have all options available to her but I do worry about my future and what is to become of me and where.

I no longer sing at the Military Wives Choir. Not just because I am no longer an army wife. I pulled out of concerts right after the vote as I could not have brought myself to sing again the national anthem… one of the choir ladies had said to me: when they deport you, I’ll come to the airport and wave you off… All of a sudden, this vote had built this big wall literally overnight. Them and us. I can’t stand it. I hurt every day. I cry inside night and day.

Thanks for listening if you had the patience to stay with me for this long that is!

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