When I lived in my country, I was not aware that I am a white man and that this could have any significance for my life. Only once I was in Africa was I immediately informed of this by the sight of its black inhabitants. Thanks to them, I discovered I my own skin colour, which I never would have thought about. R. Kapuscinski
I am European.
I have grown up unable to say where I belong, due to having two passports and two nationalities which taught me to look at the world from two very different angles. A childhood lived between the rich capitalistic western Europe and what was at that time a socialist country.
As a child I was overly annoyed by adults asking me if I was this or that, if I felt more of this nationality or the other.
I could not understand why that mattered and if it was of any relevance.
One evening, I still vividly remember it, my father showed me the newspaper and explained that when I grown up, I’ll have the freedom to travel, work and live anywhere in Europe.
It was a dream I was told when I was no older than eight years of age.
Ever since, when adults posed a silly question about my nationality, I answered proudly “I am European”.
I haven’t only said that for over 35 years, I’ve lived by my words.
Educated to be European, I have travelled and worked all around Europe like most professionals in their 40s. For me it was absolutely normal to consider Dublin or Paris neighbourhood cities.
Cheap flights, the number of European funded projects I could work on, the opportunity to work anywhere and to connect with anyone have shaped the person I am today: a European living in London.
I have come to London to learn, to find new challenges, to have new experiences, to find opportunities that only one of the most innovative places in Europe could provide.
And London has been of great benefit to me – no, not the benefits the media accuses me of taking advantage of. The real benefits of London lie, or perhaps lay, in its striving for excellence that has brought to the city an incredible concentration of the best of art, science, culture, technology, and innovation.
The real benefits I have enjoyed here are the multicultural environment, the innovative thinking, the access to the latest trends, the opportunity to work with, learn from, and meet world class professionals who excel in what they do.
Because to be able to get those benefits, me and all other Europeans had to excel. We had to go the extra mile and prove that we are worth being part of this exciting environment.
We worked hard to prove that we are scientists, researchers, healthcare professionals, engineers, consultants, teachers, who were adding more value and opportunities to Britishness. We have brought in our international education, our skills, expertise, qualifications, and the desire to excel and be part of a place that valued innovation and forward thinking beyond anything else.
I, together with all Europeans, contributed with our work, skills, and taxes to make London the professional and vibrant landscape it is today.
And as a European, I only want the freedom to stay and produce excellence that I assumed would benefit you, me, and Europe, which is my land.
But now I am told that you don’t want to be part of Europe anymore and me, not used to thinking in national terms, am lost.
Are you asking me the stupid question I used to be asked when I was a child in the countryside, where less educated people could not understand what being European meant?
I am not stealing jobs, I compete equally in the job market with all other British professionals. I contribute to the economy like anyone else. I pay my taxes and behave as a good citizen. But I want to contribute to Europe too, as that’s my home.
For the first time I am told I am not just a European. I am told that, even worse, I am a European immigrant. I did not immigrate, I have never immigrated because my home is Europe and my borders are those of the European Union. If there are no borders, there is no immigranion.
Now I have suddenly become the other. And rather than learning the lessons from Kapuscinski, another European, we go back to silly divisions that are damaging not me and not the UK but my home, Europe.
How can you, UK, where millions of Europeans came with a dream, skills, and enthusiasm to build your economy, forget that you became what you are because you could cherry pick the Europeans that you liked the most?
I moved here twice. Always with a job that I was offered while living elsewhere.
You invited me on our European banquet.
We were valuable yesterday, but not anymore.
Today we are a problem.
I am a problem.
And you tell me that you need to negotiate with the EU about what to do with me?
If I have really become the problem, save your words – you don’t have to negotiate.
I know where I belong.
I have always known.
I am European.
You have chosen already. Now it’s my turn to choose.
I have Europe.
I don’t care about your Britishness because I have Europe, and Europe needs my skills and my expertise more than you do.
You are just an island with an imperialist past – and frankly, not one to be proud of considering how you treated others.
I am a European professional, a person with a future.
A European with a future and the freedom of being who I am.
A European in Europe.
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This post was written by Patrizia Bertini