Author: Alecsandra Dragoi
A few months after Britain voted to leave the European Union, Maria was waiting to see a doctor at a London hospital when an elderly English woman told her to go back to her native Romania. “You are a foreigner,” Maria, who was heavily pregnant at the time, recalls the woman saying. “Your place is not here.”Maria was stunned. Until that moment, she had never faced direct abuse over her nationality in her 10 years in the country.
But ever since the 2016 Brexit campaign – when some Leave supporters said they wanted Britain to take more control of immigration – Maria said hostility towards EU nationals such as her has come into the open. The 31-year-old, who asked to use just her first name, said she was now preparing to leave Britain later this year with her husband and two children, fed up with what she described as xenophobia, as well as the rising cost of living in London.
“After Brexit we could all feel the obvious feeling that we are not wanted here,” Maria said. “I don’t want my kids to grow up in this sort of environment.” She worries about her children being bullied at school. Last year her Romanian nanny and two-year-old daughter were playing in a park when a woman publicly accused them of being thieves.
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
Huge uncertainty still hangs over Brexit – with politicians torn between a range of options, including calling the whole thing off. But many Europeans are already voting with their feet and choosing to move. Maria came to Britain in 2008 to work in a care home and was hoping she would earn enough to buy a car. She initially planned to stay for a year but then met her Romanian husband and decided to stay longer.
On a good month from their work at a removal company, they can save about £500, enough for them to buy a house back home in Romania. They live frugally in a tiny studio apartment in Hampstead, London, with their two daughters.
They share with their elder daughter a large double bed which takes up most of the flat. There is a small table in the corner of the room where they eat their meals. “It is very difficult because if one of the children is crying they will wake up the other one,” she said. “You can’t socialise with many people because it is very small.”
Maria said she was initially following all the news about Brexit, but now finds it perplexing. “I think Brexit is madness,” she said. “I don’t think they needed to come out of the EU. It is very sad that Brexit is destroying the UK. We have been affected by this uncertainty. There is so much uncertainty and we just wanted to go home.”