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 !!!!
For me the ultimate goal will be that after having taken bite sizes of time out of my life for about a year I will make the move back to Germany on 30 September 2017 – after 22 years in the UK (I will turn 38 in October). On the back of this huge shuffle sits the very readable list of downsizing, selling my flat, moving into rented accommodation, terminating my job, handing over all freelance arrangements and business contacts I build in London, packing boxes, donating unwanted items, moving in itself, finding a place to live in Germany, registering the address, completing all the legalese, signing up for insurance, sorting out pension arrangements and setting up a bank account. I could add a few but this pretty much sums things up – except that it doesn’t…It would be a lie if anybody could sit in front of a computer intending to write a project plan and then pitch this to an audience in the form of a Gantt chart. We are talking human lives after all! On the back of this my humble steps will only be the first in an extended family move of an oldest sister and a twin sister with her family. Neither knows for sure whether their qualifications are transferrable to another country, but will work hard to transfer what they can – mine are definitely not so I will have to adapt professionally or start again. They will move to protect the future of their family, our extended family, marriage and their right to live together with three different passports and nationalities. All this plays out against the backdrop of a family of great grandparents, grandparents, parents, us three with partners and children reaching across three different countries with professional paths taking us from Greece and Germany, into Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland and the UK. We took our opportunities as the greatest accomplishment of our ancestors’ sacrifices. The story we wrote became our right and what made us unique as a generation; our glue is blue with yellow glitter. We travelled together by driving across border crossings at our liberty and saw entire walls crumble as we grew older. We shared fresh food from all over the world at our dinner tables. We drank wine from further afield then our grandparents could have ever walked to. The EU became our oxygen! It has become who we are – our DNA… Yet, all this changed in one night. Who knows where we go from here? What plays on all our minds is the fear of whether this is just the beginning of the worst nightmare we will come to witness OR the end of a bad dream we will eventually recover from.