Over 100 stories of EU citizens in limbo now in a book

With all the stories appeared over the past year on the plight of EU citizens living in the UK, it was only a matter of time before someone collected the testimonies for a book. The book is now ready and available on Amazon.

The title is In Limbo – Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK. One year ago, on the 23rd of June 2016, the UK decided with a referendum to leave the European Union. That moment started a period of distress for EU nationals in the UK and for British citizens living in the rest of the EU. Their rights to study, work and live in another EU country like any other citizen derive from EU Treaties and will cease to apply once the UK leaves the EU. A solution can be found as part of the exit negotiations and the European Commission has put forward proposals to guarantee that nothing will change for these groups after Brexit. But there are areas of disagreement with the British government and there hasn’t been any unilateral commitment to secure the rights regardless of the outcome of the negotiations. Hence the limbo.

The idea of gathering stories for a book came to Elena Remigi, an Italian translator who moved to Britain 12 years ago after living in Ireland and Canada. Véronique Martin and Tim Sykes, French and British academics, joined the project too.

“After the EU referendum people started to share their feelings in Facebook groups. They expressed grievance, sadness and a sense of betrayal. Brexit made a large community feel unwelcome in the UK. The emotional impact was strong, but people around us did not understand it. There are Europeans with British in-laws who voted to leave the EU without recognising this would deeply affect their family members,” says Elena Remigi. “We wanted to show this human side of the Brexit story. If we only left the testimonies on Facebook, they would have gone lost. We thought they should be preserved, shared and delivered to history.”

The book includes some 140 stories of people who tell directly their experiences. Almost all EU countries are represented. There is a Dutch widow, who lost her British husband and does not qualify for permanent residence, although she has lived in the UK since 1967. There is a French mother who is ill and does not know if she can still rely on the British health system. There is a Romanian who remembers the Soviet Bloc and explains what borders mean to East Europeans. There are also British married to EU nationals and British living in other EU countries, who voice their fears about the future.

The stories are grouped in five chapters, each representing a feeling: sorrow, disappointment, worry, anger and betrayal. There was little editing to maintain each testimony authentic. Adding to the personal recounts, the foreword is by award-winning poet George Szirtes, a British-Hungarian who arrived in the UK as a refugee at the age of eight.

In total, almost 200 people sent their memoirs through the Facebook group “Our Brexit Testimonies.” Those that didn’t make it to the book will be published on the website http://www.ourbrexitblog.eu.

The purpose of the initiative is not profit, but awareness. The publication is being shipped to politicians in the UK and in Brussels, just as Brexit talks are starting. The book is self-published and the 6,000 GBP needed to cover distribution and advertising were raised through a crowdfunding page. Proceedings from the sale (cost is GBP 8.99) will be used to support citizens’ rights, says Elena Remigi.

She adds: “When the UK triggered Article 50 of the Treaty starting the Brexit process, I described how I felt using some verses of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Inferno.”

“Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai in una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era perduta…”

“Midway upon the journey of life,
I found myself in a dark forest,
for the straightforward path had been lost…”

She also recalls the final verses of Dante’s Inferno:

“E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.”
“Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.”

“This is my wish for each one of us. Our limbo is not only about having the right documents or not. There is a psychological limbo too, in which we all feel we have plunged. My hope is that we can all return to behold the stars, content and settled as we first were before this referendum.”


Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.
Photo top of page via Pixabay. Book cover by Gareth Harrey.

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