Ok I feel I need to say sorry to anyone who might have voted to Leave the EU. And also to anyone who voted Conservative in the last general election. I strongly disagree with your choices and your politics, but I accept that you have reasons for thinking the way you do. I really am very sorry if I have made anyone feel sad, uncomfortable, unloved or unsafe due to the forcefulness of my Brexit despair.
What makes me saddest about the current political climate is that the red carpet has been rolled out for intolerance and hate. But I am ashamed to say that I may have contributed to that over the last few days. I feel destroyed by the slim margin of opinion in my country which has decided to take me and my family away from a way of life which I feel is good and secure. But even if I strongly dislike the outcome, even if I strongly disagree that a referendum was ever called on this issue in the first place, I don’t hate the voters.
I will do everything I can think of to try and keep Britain in the European Union. I’ll do all I can to stem the tide of far-right politics. Of racism and intolerance. But I can’t do all those things with fear and loathing in my heart.
Instead I turn to love.
I love my family, made up of a strange circus of immigrants. My dad, half American Indian, half Ukrainian. Born to a Ukrainian immigrant mum in New York where he spent his childhood. Then emigrating to England to forge a new life. He ran away from home and became an actor, couch-surfing in London. Where he met my mum, from rural Wales, who made it to London to study as an opera singer.
They fell in love on the stage and theirs has been a joyous and magical marriage.
And now me. Here I am, married with 3 kids, and nothing about my current life would have been possible without the European Union and the ability to live, love and work in other European countries.
I met a Dutchman who turned out to be the love of my life when he was studying in England. Studies only made possible – and affordable – because of the EU.
We moved to Holland to live and work, and thanks to the EU, his qualifications were transferrable and he was able to practise as a doctor right away.
I worked for an NGO as a journalist and a trainer on projects often funded by the EU. Projects designed to strengthen democracies in war-torn countries and empower populations to rebuild themselves by strengthening freedom of speech.
I travelled to Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda, and worked with amazing colleagues to mentor equally amazing journalists. They’re now living and working to rebuild their fractured societies through responsible journalism.
Wherever I travelled I knew my passport afforded me safety and security. The extraordinary safety and security of being part of a unified Europe. A big massive block of unified countries. Absolutely loads and loads of diplomats who talk to each other and help each other’s citizens when they’re in trouble.
It’s incredible really that in my country, we’ve become so complacent about this extraordinary privilege. Many non-EU friends have remarked over the years about the luxuries an EU passport afforded me. I am embarrassed to say I’ve never truly thought through those luxuries. Until now.
I’ll never ever be able to forget living through the incarceration of my colleague Abdelrachman, who was imprisoned by the Sudanese authorities simply for being a journalist.
The frustration that he, a Sudanese national, was rotting in jail with no powerful allies – apart from human rights organisations – to speak for him and pull diplomatic strings.
We are so lucky in England. Not only that we live in a democratic union with Scotland, Wales and northern Ireland. That we are a united kingdom. But that also for now, whilst we are part of the EU, we are cushioned by a massive ring of allies and trading partners who’ve thrown their lot in with ours. Who are tied to us and will pull together with us when times get tough.
Oh my God. I am still in absolute denial that we’ve decided to drop the handshake and stick 2 fingers up instead. How utterly outrageously shortsighted. An electorate duped by ambitious self-serving politicians.
Here we are building a life for ourselves in London, with my Dutch husband working so hard for the NHS he loves and believes in and fights for every day. He’s an economic migrant to the UK. I am the mother of two children born in Holland, and one born in England. Three of out of my family of five have Dutch passports. Two of us have British ones. But for now, I treasure the fact that we are all European.
We’ll always maintain the dual nationality of our children, certain as we are of the benefits being part of Europe will lavish upon them. But my heart breaks for their friends, perhaps their own kids, whose lives and prospects will be so extremely limited and less secure thanks to Britain’s departure from the EU.
Anyway sorry. All that to say, I’m just really sorry if I’ve made anyone feel shit about themselves or their opinions because I’ve been too forthright in mine. I’ve exposed my politically intolerant side. And that’s wrong. Please forgive me. It’s just everything about me, my family, my loves, my children, our circumstances, my career, everything really about me was made possible because of political unions.
Some Brexiteers would argue that these privileges of study / work / funding and passport will not go; but it’s a pretty risky gamble.
Even the hereditary condition I’ve suffered from since the age of 6 is called Familial Mediterranean Fever. How ironic that the mutant gene which rages through my family’s DNA has it’s origins in Europe.
Incidentally it was a Spanish doctor in the UK who finally diagnosed my condition after nearly 2 decades of misdiagnosis and harmful treatments at the hands of other doctors. Then it was Dutch scientists who found our abnormality and gave the research to the Royal Free in London, who completed the puzzle. All that cross-border medical cooperation has allowed us to know how to give our kids a normal childhood.
Normal childhoods that are so precious.
We’ve hitched through Lebanon and Syrian, chatting to teenagers in parks who feared the authorities were listening in to our conversations. I’ve travelled through eastern Europe chatting to trainee journalists in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia about what is was like to live through a terrifyingly brutal war. A war that only just took place in our very recent past, right on our doorstep. I’ve reported on the war crimes trials at the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).
I’m not saying these things to brag. I wish I could erase from my brain the testimonies of normal people who’s neighbours turned on them and inflicted the most incomprehensible crimes against humanity. Crimes committed when neighbouring countries are not unified and suddenly turn on each other.
The victims are rarely the politicians who cause the instability. Those who bear the brunt of unwise decisions made by megalomaniacs in positions of power are the group of girls I interviewed in quiet hut in the Central African Republic. All the victim of brutal rapes commissioned by politicians across the border in the DR Congo.
I’ve seen what happens to beautiful countries when peace and security is dismantled by a few distasteful politicians, who you never imagined could really ever clinch a position of power. But then they do, astonishingly. And all hell is unleashed on normal families much like yours and mine.
It all happens so easily.
I must endeavour to trust the British voters and respect their choices. Despite the fact that many of their choices were influenced by shameless, baseless, indefensible lies from corrupt politicians.
But I don’t hate the voters.
I’m completely and utterly distraught and cannot believe what is happening to my country. But as the daughter of immigrants, and the wife of a migrant, and the mother of Dutch kids, right now it doesn’t really feel like my country very much at all.