A Pole in Yorkshire’s Tale

Anna/Ania, Poland

I attended a recent 3millions lobbying event and when I arrived at the event “Schadenfreude” was all I felt. “Schade” (shame) because why we have to do it? It should be straightforward. We are living in the UK, this is our home. Since the Article 50 was triggered, this feeling of home has been on very shaky ground. And this is why we met. But I felt also “Freude” (joy). I am not alone. Mine is not a lone wolf’s cry.
Next day, I ordered “In Limbo”. Amazon Prime has its uses and this afternoon, I made myself a nice cup of tea, got the blanket out, curled on sofa and started reading. Good job, being allergic, that I have boxes with tissues all over the house. And reading all those stories, I decided to share mine. Here in the UK, friends call me Anna, people at work call me Ania. I am a project manager working in IT company. I have lived in the UK for 12 years. I am now a holder of PR, have passed the test “Life in the UK” and had to pass another test for English, as the Home Office in its infinite wisdom to make our live easier, decided to change the list of authorised centres, where one can take such exam. The centre I was taking mine at, lost its place on the list. The exam is valid, it proves I can speak, write, read and listen in English, but I cannot use this as a proof with my application. I need to spend an additional £150 plus travel costs and go and take it again, praying that between booking and exam and the time of obtaining results and placing my applications the Home Office won’t change anything. When I sit and think is this really worth it, why I have to have another citizenship, why I need to go through all this hassle, I remind myself about what brought me here. It is June 2005. I live in one bed flat in a medium-sized town in Poland. I work, study and have a boyfriend, and we are starting to think about getting married. This idyllic picture changes into a vision from hell when looking closer: at Uni, I am told by my lecturer that because I was ill for nearly a whole term, and was unable to attend his lectures, he will fail me, so I can give up straight away; my boyfriend starts getting problems with his ex, and his divorce is not so certain any more; at work after 3 months of not being paid, we are told to be happy that we can work at all, as nobody works for money obviously. That month I break down. I decide I have enough, I am leaving. Boyfriend can go with me, or go to hell. I started looking for a job in Ireland and in the UK. The first company that offered me a job, was a call centre in Yorkshire. I took money from the insurance payment for my illness, packed my stuff and on the 11th of August , not without the problems I landed in Luton. I took a train and get myself to Sheffield. First month was tough. After that all become similar, just one after another. Boyfriend left me 7 months later and went back to Poland. I stayed in the UK. It was not a case of love at first sight with country or people or language. It was just the sensible choice. Time was passing. I started University in Sheffield, changed jobs, did not claim any benefits. Managed to get on where I am now, thanks to hard work, stubbornness and hunger for knowledge. Still do not have my degree, but I am getting there. I learnt to love the hills of Yorkshire. This is my home. I have friends all over Europe. I have family all over Europe. Poland is the place where my memories are, where I left part of me. But I do not belong there. The only problem is that since the Referendum, I do not feel I belong here either. My number of “friends” on Facebook within first week decreased from 350 to 200 odd. I had enough of “We do not mind you, but they have to go” with no accepting the fact I am one of them. I could move out, but why should I? What about my pension then? How I will care for my mother who is not so young now and obviously as it comes with the age, not so healthy when I will be unable to go to her, nor she will be able to come over here (not without lengthy visa applications and all this) How I will visit my friends or my relatives in other countries?? How I will be able to go to see my rugby team?! Being in the EU, makes all this simple. You get your passport, debit card, plane ticket and off you go. Being on PR does not really guarantee you any rights (not with the current proposals). I would have to hold two passports to live my life as I did. Thankfully Polish law allows me to do that, but I still fail to understand why I need the British citizenship to be able to live my life as I do. To grow tomatoes and have silly conversations with my mates. Within all those years here I have changed. I became more self-confident, more assertive, I lived as I please and I was happy. Thanks to this uncertainty, and lack of any guarantees, I am suffering now with anxiety and depression. Two demons I thought I buried in 2005. So this is my testimony. Single, depressed, professional, who does not know any more where she belongs.

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