…”but I’ve been reading the news. Do you remember the last time we spoke about the big family of countries, the EU? Where your Mummy’s country, and France, Spain, and many others belong to? Do you remember we talked about the vote in England? And do you remember England decided they no longer wanted to belong to that family? Well, that’s what makes Mummy so sad today.”
“But I don’t want to leave the big family!”
“I know. And many, many people here feel the same way. But don’t worry, OK? As long as we’re all together, we’ll always be fine.” My big girl nods, smiles and gives me a big hug. My heart is aching, I feel like I’m running out of air. This is not what a Sunday morning should look like. Or any day, for that matter. And by that point, we were both still in pyjamas, and I hadn’t even had a cup of coffee. It was 07:40am, and I was drained and emotionally exhausted already.
It was the morning after I had learnt about an incident in our nearest town, where a German national had been subjected to physical and verbal attacks. It was the morning after I had spoken to British friends who’d been asked on holiday why England was so racist. Why something like Brexit could ever happen. Why they don’t see that history is just about to repeat itself. My friends were trying to provide an answer. They voted Remain, and all they could think of in the heat of the moment was to apologise. “It’s the ill-informed xenophobic people who are trying to ‘Take the Country Back’. We’ve been led to believe that everything will be rosier post-Brexit. No more refugees – more jobs for us! Less crowded A&Es. Less poverty, less crime. And all that money that was spent on our EU membership – well that, of course, was to go straight into the pots of the NHS! It was a fiction, one that was well-spun and selling well.”
Brexit has split the country, entire families. I have spoken to people in London who feel uneasy now, saying civil unrest is just around the corner. This is just the beginning. Once Article 50 takes effect and the terms for the UK are dictated by the remaining EU member states, an anti-Germany sentiment will spark targeted hate crimes.
I am worried about my children’s future – I fear they will be ashamed of their German heritage when they get older. One of my neighbours, son to a German mother in post-war Britain, was beaten up in school for having a German accent. He then erased all German from his memory and tried to blend in as much as he could. This will not happen to my girls. My girls must never feel embarassed about their German family, their bilingualism. Their German passports should never be a badge of shame – nor should their British passport abroad.
I grew up with my grandparents’ war stories. When I was five or six, I was told about the kind English allies that came and gave them sweets and saved their country. When my husband and I got engaged, my Grandfather welcomed him into the family by saying, “Isn’t this wonderful? A German and an Englishman. This was unthinkable seventy years ago. Our countries are growing together by marriages like yours.”
This togetherness between post-war England and Germany isn’t anymore. The marriage lies in ruins, a couple that has been through a lot, that barely communicates these days. Tea is had in separate rooms, separate beds the norm these days. A couple that no longer shows affection, but a dry peck on the cheek on special occasions. This is where we are at the moment.
No wonder Mummy is a bit upset right now.