A Briton of Italian and Ukrainian roots’ story

UK, Italy and Ukraine
UK, Italy and Ukraine
Maria, United Kingdom
Firstly I must explain that I’m very fortunate and privileged that I don’t have the Brexit Sword of Damocles over my own head. I live in the UK and am British by birth so my rights here are unaffected. Thanks to my Italian mamma I am also Italian so I remain an EU citizen. It’s a little complicated but my children also have the right to dual nationality through blood line and my husband through marriage. Things should be good and I should be riding high but I’m not!! Brexit is in my thoughts all the time because I worry about how this whole thing will affect my 90 year old Italian mum. I suppose it’s mum’s testimony really but she is elderly and suffers with Alzheimer’s so isn’t really aware of what is happening so I do the worrying for her. When I heard the result after the referendum, my heart skipped a beat. My British husband and I could hardly speak, we felt numb, afraid, angry, hopeless and a whole mixture of other emotions. I tried telling myself that it would be ok as we could remain EU citizens and mum arrived 60 years ago so she couldn’t possibly be affected. It didn’t work because nobody was confirming that pre EUers would be ok. But also I personally love that we are such a rich mix of people in the UK and I have friends who most certainly are affected. Mum’s story started after the war. At the time there were adverts stuck to village walls for Italians to come and work in the mills of Yorkshire. Initially my mum was not interested but due to her sister and her niece being abandoned by their husband / dad and the family having to support them and the general post war poverty in Italy she started to think about applying and she eventually decided to come. As the others from her village were already in England mum came alone. She travelled on the train all the way from her village in southern Italy. She was immensely brave to do this as she had led a very sheltered life hardly ever going further than the surrounding villages. She was not highly educated like many arrivals today as my grandparents couldn’t afford for her to continue her education, but she was bright. She was also a hard worker and has always been respected wherever she has worked. Her intention was to stay for a short time and then return to Italy but life’s not like that. When she arrived she worked in a mill and lived in a hostel for the workers. She didn’t like living there so eventually went to live as a lodger with an Italian friend who was already married to a Ukrainian. Whilst there my Ukrainian dad visited his friend and saw her and immediately fell in love with her. He persuaded her to go out with him which eventually she did. A few months later they married and a few years later they had my sister who was still born and then me. I’m an only child. Needless to say, her plans to return after a short while were abandoned. My parents had a true love story and there was talk of retiring to Italy but my dad’s health never allowed that. My dad passed away 26 years ago and my mum misses him every day. She wants to be buried with him and he is in England. They both worked so hard, mainly in low paid jobs but they didn’t claim anything. They overcame prejudice and soon they were adored by their British neighbours. The same neighbours who later admitted how worried they were that foreigners were moving in (around 46 years ago) loved my mum’s charm and generosity and my dad’s gentle manner. They called me the Little Princess and spoiled me whenever they could. As their daughter I think back to their lives and I swell with pride. My mum’s bravery at coming all alone and my dad’s gratitude to the British for allowing him to stay which allowed him to live rather than being shot at Stalin’s command. My parents are my heroes. Since the Brexit referendum I have found my mum’s immigration paperwork but cannot get a definitive answer as to what that means now. Every time I ask I get a different answer as there’s so much information about EU migrants but hardly anything for the pre EUers. I don’t think she will ever be required to leave the country but I can’t bear the thought that she might be expected to provide fingerprints or anything like that. A dignified and decent woman being treated like a criminal. I also worry about her rights to access services such as the NHS or Social Services. My worries also extend to my friends who are affected by this whole fiasco and I despise that human beings are being treated as bargaining chips !!!!

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.

Stay and I suffer, or leave and my husband suffers?

The 23rd of June 2016 was a dark day for my husband and me. We tried to joke about the referendum, as neither of us actually believed the outcome would be in favour of Brexit. We discussed what country to flee to in the event that it all went disastrously wrong, and settled on Canada. I ranted about how unfair it was that I didn’t get a vote, as a resident for 13 years and a taxpayer for 7 (after 6 years of higher education).

Read moreStay and I suffer, or leave and my husband suffers?

A German and Irish couple’s story

by SR, Germany and Irish husband
London has been amazing for us, my Irish husband and me, German. We have lived here for almost 20 years and we came with nothing. My husband got into Advertising after working in different restaurants for several years, because he was told that he was good with numbers. I arrived with my degree in Paintings Conservation. He managed to set up 2 companies from scratch and after working for other restorers I set up my own studio just before we started having children. All 3 of them are English by heart with a German passport. They could have the Irish one, but my husband has not been that organised. I have always been conscious as a German working in English Art Collections as we were brought up feeling ashamed of our country’s history. But it did not hinder my career! I have had fabulous projects for the National Trust, the V&A and other wonderful organisations. My husband was lucky enough to sell both his agencies and leave immediately as he wanted to find a new path in life. Based on this new found freedom we took our 3 children out of school last summer on the basis of home schooling and went on a sabbatical trip around world. What timing! I will never forget the moment waking up at 5am and seeing the Brexit vote results! Both of us immediately did not feel welcome anymore, because we had lived away from our home countries for so long, we had started to identify ourselves as Europeans. But I know, we have been so lucky to set off and observe the developments from a distance and I have been a member of this group almost from the beginning and I have felt heartbroken so many times reading your stories. We just went away to teach our children about different cultures in the hope that this will create kindness and openness in their hearts for every human being. We volunteered in a school in India, we hiked in the Himalayas and we took Spanish classes in South America. Throughout our trip we were constantly debating – what next? And we often had sleepless nights. In early July we returned to London and we were welcomed so warmly by all our friends. There did not seem to be a change at all and Lambeth had the highest voters to remain anyway. But there is this anger inside me and it does not go away. We should all be working together as a united Europe as it was founded as a historical consequence. So many people have stated the facts here. So I am not going further into the long debate we all had numerous times. But it has led to our decision to leave London. We have found a flat in Berlin. It is all very rushed to get there on time before school starts at the end of the month. I am very grateful that we have the freedom to make this decision and I have spoken to many people who can’t. But in my heart I will continue to support each and everyone of you! And who knows? We might not like Berlin and we are very aware that this could be a big mistake. After all the UK has been our home for 20 years and we missed it very much during our world trip. I have only now started telling people and all my lovely colleagues I have worked with. It is daunting to start out again in Berlin with no contacts. But I also need to settle the kids first, who don’t want to go….

Laure Ollivier-Minns’ speech for the book launch of ‘In Limbo’ on 26th July 2017

I don’t feel at home anymore…

I’ve been settled in Britain for 31 years, but I don’t feel at home anymore.

I’ve been married to a Brit for 27 years and I have British children. But… as the rules stand, I don’t qualify for Permanent Residency and settled status because I don’t meet the Home Office criteria.

Read moreLaure Ollivier-Minns’ speech for the book launch of ‘In Limbo’ on 26th July 2017