An emotional reading by remarkable and courageous Professor Tanja Bueltmann, an inspiration to many and an absolute champion of citizens’ rights.
A year ago today this was my view from the path up to Stac Pollaidh.
Today, I find myself in the reality that I have just left hospital after treatment for something that could quite easily have ended in my death, had it not been discovered. What a difference a year makes!
And I cannot even begin to tell you how it felt that, by pure coincidence, that should happen right after this message the other day:
Twitter / @cliodiaspora
But as I have discovered, the impact of such a scare isn’t automatically all negative: it does help focus the mind!
So, I want to do a little bit of that here too because I know how many of you are currently struggling with exactly that loss of focus.
This time last year I was very tired. We had had a march in London in September and, following that, there was an awful lot a hate directed at me. As has been the case so often, Brexiters took issue with the fact that I, a foreigner, opened my mouth.
Simultaneously, only little progress was being made on citizens’ rights. The 3 million of us had clearly become bargaining chips and the interest in our concerns was limited. But at that point, in the autumn of 2017, I still believed that humanity and fairness would prevail.
The joint report by the UK and the EU issued last December, however, did nothing to reassure. It really just confirmed that we would remain in limbo and that our struggle would continue: people had not been put before politics and this made me very sad.
I am not a Christmassy person, but I knew many EU citizens here were struggling to cope with having to spend another Christmas in limbo and if you ever want to understand the impact of that kind of limbo, look no further than this:
But still, nobody cared and so it was perhaps no surprise that, by early 2018, we had been moved on from being bargaining chips to collateral. The fact that we now have to apply to stay in our home confirms that without question.
Spending some time away in New Zealand — a place where I used to live and consider one of my heart-homes — put those developments into even starker light: nobody I met in New Zealand could comprehend what is going on in the UK. And to me, from so far away, it also looked even crazier.
But, of course, there were things to do. So, shortly after my return it was my privilege to march and speak at the incredible March for Europe in Edinburgh.
It was perhaps an even more special moment to speak in Berlin in front of the Brandenburg Gate only a little while later.
Twitter / @cliodiaspora
Likewise, it was brilliant to come together with many incredible women against Brexit for speeches in London. But the impact of that event, or rather what happened afterwards, is something that my life is shaped by to this day. Not only because of this:
But primarily because of what happened here a few days later. An experience I will never forget, and one I would not have coped with without Axel Antoni, Anja Heilmann and Sean Jones, who were basically my Three Musketeers that day.
All because I, “a foreign cunt”, apparently really cannot speak on British streets... So, I spoke in Parliament next, together with more amazing women against Brexit.
And I marched on the streets in June for a People’s Vote. Marched even though I knew then what I still know now: that we, EU citizens, will never be included! After all, the People’s Vote team couldn’t even be bothered to give us a platform... twice!
But my tits, apparently non-existent, sure got a platform on Twitter after I held this sign (not even mine!) for about 20 seconds. Waking up to one’s apparently non-existent tits being discussed on Twitter is an interesting experience, I can tell you that!
All of this is just one reason why Brexit is personal to me and why it was such a great privilege for me to speak at the first FinalSayForAll Beehive after the June march. I met the most amazing people there and I will forever cherish that.
But I knew that none of this would help EU citizens. So, I wanted to do more. I wanted to make sure The3Million have the funds they need to continue their vital work. That is how my EU Citizens Champion campaign was born.
While I wish I had raised more money for it already, I consider it my proudest achievement in all this mess. Not least because of the incredible people I have had the privilege to meet, including David Schneider, without who I could not have launched it in the way I did. But I need many more champions!
All of us who did the EU Citizens Champion launch activities in July, all those who supported them... We need more of you to join in so that no EU citizen is left behind because of Brexit. A People’s Vote, if it comes, is unlikely to help us. Please, recognise that and help now.
After a holiday with my nephew, showing him another part of Europe like I have done with him for the last 5 years, I felt invigorated. Much of what I do is for them: the next generation of Europeans. I want them to have the same opportunities I had — young Britons included.
But this invigoration was blown up in an instant. I won’t focus too much on this, but let me stress that, the impact of this, and the wider attack that followed, is one that haunts me to this day.
After that, I lost my mojo. And I have been looking for it ever since. That, in combination with abuse and threats I continue to get, is why I struggled so much to march last week. I could not have done it, as I have already said, without my friend Axel Antoni.
And then, I look at things like this and naturally ask myself why the goddamn fuck I still even care:
Look at this and wonder whether the notice we are waiting for is a deportation notice:
I ask myself why, after three years, the struggle of us, EU citizens in the UK, and our British friends in EU countries, STILL starts with having to fight for our voices to be heard... Why we have to claim the Speaker’s Corner to get a space for our voices at the People’s Vote march...
Things like that do not help bring back that mojo. But yesterday a friend of mine gave me back a big chunk of it with a difficult but admirable act of strength. I will never forget that.
And so, for my friend; for all of our loved ones; for the young Europeans; for the 5 million of us; and for myself... I am going to push on in the way I used to. Because if my friend’s act and my hospital scare have shown me anything at all then it is what’s important in life.
And to me, it is the fight to reclaim the very soul of this country, the one that I fell in love with when I first came here, in the early 1990s. And the fight to make sure that no EU citizen is left behind. This is our home too!
I will continue to fight this fight for as long as I can.
And I’m going to go with Helen Reddy on this — I am woman... and activist. That is my focus of the mind.🔷
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s conscent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)