"My life is now built on quicksand"

25 July 2017

This story was sent to us by Christina, an EU national who lives in Newcastle.

My name is Christina, I am 47. I have lived in the UK since I was 18. Initially I wanted to spend a year in Newcastle to improve my English, now this one year has become 29. I studied at Newcastle University and later at Durham University to become a teacher. I have been teaching German in the North East for 20 years. I started working at local schools and now lecture at Newcastle University and the Open University. I married a lovely man from Sheffield, we have two grown-up children, one grandson and another one on the way.

In all the years I had felt welcome, part of things, cosmopolitan. My husband and I were planning retirement in Germany or perhaps somewhere warmer. We anticipated our dual-nationality children could work and study anywhere in the EU. We never thought we would face a life apart, our family broken up by the hard choices Brexit now presents us with.

I feel I have lost everything since the EU referendum, my life is now built on quick sand. My past now seems a lie, the best years of my life wasted in a country that rejects me; my present is anxiety, depression and uncertainty; my future up in the air, I am a bargaining chip at best, collateral damage at worst. I have seen the mood change and turn ugly immediately after the referendum. My daughter, then 17, came home in tears because other 6th formers she regarded her friends had asked when her mother would be going home to Germany. Since then, rather than animosity against EU27 citizens dying down, it has been spiralling and we face as much uncertainty now as we did on the first morning after the referendum.

The daily onslaught of scapegoating of EU27 citizens in the British press, the platform given to openly xenophobic UKIP by the BBC, the muttered disapproval on the bus when anything else but English is spoken; all these feed off each other and lead to a sense of persecution and fear amongst EU27 citizens.

I have often been told that I would be okay because I am married to a British citizen, which is not true, or that I should just get British citizenship, which is no longer a desirable option. Years ago I looked into it, but at the time Germany did not allow dual nationality and in any case life went along happily without it. Now British citizenship is not something I would want anymore. Brexit has shown that EU27 citizens like me are not wanted in the UK by the majority of the electorate. For the first time in nearly 3 decades I have become the victim of a hate crime just a stone throw from my workplace in the heart of Newcastle. I was cycling home from work when a local man overheard me talking to a young woman about the new road layout. As I had never met him before, I suspect he worked out from my accent that I am German. He directed a tirade of abuse at me, told me to ‘f*** off back to Krautland, we voted out!’ and rounded this off with another vile profanity, as well as a Nazi salute. I came home shaken, my daughter called the police and the incident was recorded as a hate crime by Northumbria Police. Needless to say, British citizenship would not have protected me from this kind of abuse.

I am now looking into having my British qualifications recognised by the education department of my home town. I would rather contribute to a country where I was wanted rather than barely tolerated. I have grown weary of waiting to see which rights I will lose through Brexit. My husband and I cannot afford the uncertainty of both giving up our jobs, we do not want to leave our children without a parental base in the UK, so when I go, I’ll go alone, almost as if the last 29 years had not happened.

I do not think I will be able to forgive what Brexit has done to EU27 citizens like me and my children. We are not the lucky ones because ‘we can get out’, as I am frequently told, we are the ones who built their lives in the UK in good faith, only to have the rug pulled from underneath us."


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