Dasha is Russian. She has been living in the UK for 19 years and for the first time during this time she is feeling uncomfortable about it. This is her story.
Three weeks ago I went to the polling station in our local church to cast my vote in the EU referendum. As I walked in and looked around at the faces of my fellow voters a dull sense of impending doom came over me. I texted my husband on the way out saying I was worried.
I am an immigrant. I have been in this country for 19 years, I hold a British passport, I am married to an Englishman, my children are half English and I sound more like I am from the home counties (on a good day). However I am and always will remain an immigrant because I was born in Russia and came here when I was 17. And for the first time in 19 years I felt uncomfortable about it.
Up until this point I had remained wildly optimistic about the outcome. That is no mean feat considering the torrent of xenophobic press leading up to the vote. Just one glance at the news stand in the local co-op would be enough to darken my mood instantly and I would spend the rest of the day fighting against it. I held on to my optimism through thick and thin.
What the Brexit campaign has done is open a Pandora’s box of racism and xenophobia and there is no going back on it now, no matter how much all the politicians condemned the spike in hate crimes over the weekend following the vote. It was the same politicians that had incited xenophobia and racism earlier. Most of it (in the press at least) was directed at recent migrants as opposed to people like me. However, you know that when it comes down to it, the bigots that have had their opinion validated will not ask me how long I have lived here, how much of an effort I have made to integrate myself or whether I have a British passport. They will see a foreign name or hear a foreign accent and they will judge. And that is what has made me feel unwelcome here for the first time in 19 years. Because when I see a headline like “1.7 million new jobs and 92% go to migrants”, I know that that can mean me just as easily.
And so what next? Three weeks on and the press have been occupied with the Game-of-Throne’s- esque like drama that has become British politics, largely forgetting about the initial splash of hate crimes it caused. And just like that, xenophobia and racism was normalised a little bit more in our society. For now I remain safe in the multicultural bubble of London. I will still drop my son off at a nursery where I hear at least six different languages and see just as many skin colours. Nobody is going to make me “Go Home”, I have a British passport. But the rolling hills of England look a little less welcoming and the quaint villages a little less friendly for me. I feel a little less home here and it will take a lot of optimism to heal that.