Dear Brexiteers, I ain’t no card in your negotiations
Cards in negotiations.
What other words do you use (daily) to describe 3.3 million of European citizens living in the United Kingdom…?
When I was a little girl, I admired Mary Poppins. I dreamed about receiving a British Christmas card. They were so charmingly beautiful and I’ve seen them only in my English handbooks. I wondered how these rich tea-biscuits may taste, shown on illustrations of happy families in colourful jumpers. Too distant, too ethereal for a Polish kid living in a poor country in the middle of Europe, just released from behind the Iron Curtain.
As a teenager I feasted my imagination on Celtic mythology and fell in love with Wuthering Heights. And I knew I want to live in this misty, rainy country one day. I want to make it my home.
I have devoted a huge part of my life to get a decent education. Alright, it might not be Cambridge or Oxford… but I speak English like a native. I know British history, literature and customs better than many youngsters graduating from a college with their A’s and B’s (of course, we may go now into a discussion about modern culture and the value of tradition). I don’t have to learn how to become a part of this society, because I’ve belonged here mentally for so long that after I came to the UK, I basically embraced it.
After coming here I didn’t feel unwelcome. I knew that Brexit is being discussed widely, as just few months before I was covering British election for Polish media. I just told myself, keep calm and carry on.
The problem is, I have never experienced racism and discrimination in my life before, so I went through a genuine shock on the 2nd day of November last year, when a man attacked me and groped me in the common space of my shared accommodation. When I cried to him that what he does offends me, he shouted back that I come from a foreign country to HIS COUNTRY, THEN HE HAS A RIGHT TO DO WHATEVER HE WANTS with me. I didn’t submit to this. I just rang the police. I have received much support and really loving care. I am grateful for this. I am also grateful for the HM Court’s verdict, qualifying this as a sexual assault on a racist background.
Just a month later I’ve found myself in a Job Centre Plus, being told that if I display my Polish name openly on my CV, nobody will ever hire me. To be honest, my jaw dropped to the floor and I didn’t realise that this helpful advice given me by a serious lady in her mid 50s was actually an act of discrimination. I struggled and I succeeded. In another few weeks I’ve landed on a job, where no single British girl worked in my team.
If you work as a community carer, you do averagely 15 miles a day on foot. You’re sore and tired, basically exhausted, but the job is very rewarding. Thanks to my work, that means helping elderly British people from all possible backgrounds (Chinese, Nigerian, English, Somali) maintaining their independence in daily needs, I’ve made many friends, some of them for a lifetime. I was a genuine favourite of my clients (as we, carers, were forbidden to call them patients, it brings personal relationship). One of them told me one day: you are so educated, so literate, you deserve so much more than such a life! Go girl, go and seek a better life! And I’ve obeyed her, I went down to London, nonetheless — these were my first steps in the UK. I regret nothing.
I live in London half a year now and I’m setting up a company in one of the emerging technologies. I’m dashing, smiling and always eager for a chat. Forever curious, speaking with a natural accent and looking like a proper Londoner. Yes, I’m a bit embarrassed when pronouncing my name brings so much effort — but English language too has difficult words in the vocabulary. And a name, at the end of the day — is something that can be administratively changed in time.
My second November in the UK is coming and I hope that Britain is so much better than these few bad things that happened to me over last year. So much better than this overwhelming surge of racism fired by Daily Mail (whoever reads this? No one wants to admit, ever!). So much better than the killing of a Polish fella in Harlow, now investigated as a possible hate crime. Finally — so much better than intimidating political rhetorics that doesn’t hit the seasonal migrants coming over here to pick up British strawberries during summer. No. They will have their £200 a week and they will flow back to their countries.
It hits us — skilled people that chose Britain for their home. Academics. Innovators. Entrepreneurs. Scientists. IT specialists. Architects. UK is our home. We pay our taxes here. We celebrate British legal fairness and transparency (because “our” countries often lack it). We spread good words about Britain and we praise it all over the world. We are actually proud to be British, even if we aren’t first class citizens (or citizens in the name of law at all). Will we ever be…?
You, dear Brexiteers, say in your internet comments: EU citizens have countries where they can come back, so what’s the problem? I will tell you. Basically it’s not true. Imagine that some of us have nowhere to go, and not because we earn less money there (I had a decent salary). Yes, some of us escaped from austerity. Some of us — ran away because of creeping censorship, rising especially in Eastern Europe. We — EU citizens — escape bad governments and corruption. And if we choose Britain to settle, to become our home, it means we trust your system. We trust we are safe here with our lives and our future. And no, we aren’t cards. We aren’t bargaining chips. We are humans. Equal to you.
Appendix: We already had times in history, when the society was divided and the groups were stirred and provoked to fight with each other. As we know, it ended really bad. That’s the reason we invented open borders and decided to form the European Union. Yes, I see some points behind Brexit. Every political structure flourishes and then decays. Yes, EU needs to be slightly reformed. But no single political condition should lead to such vile, toxic events as those happening in Britain now. I believe my country is still better than this.