My paternal grandmother was born and raised in Poland. During the Second World War she was displaced to Russian, then India, then Kenya and eventually she came to the UK for a holiday and told my grandfather she was staying put. She was a DETERMINED woman, I’m not sure even Theresa May could have kept her out of the country! Therefore, my father, who was born in Kenya (Nairobi), ending up emigrating to the UK when he was around ten. As a child, he moved frequently and found it unsettling. This resulted in him firmly setting his roots down when he arrived in Swansea for University. This static influence then had the opposite effect on me! I chose to read languages in University, purely for the year abroad, and then moving to Edinburgh once I graduated. I didn’t plan to settle in one place but, for various reasons, 12 years later, I’m still here. I fully intend to experience the world either by living or travelling abroad as much as possible.
There have always been big ifs with our family – what if Grandma hadn’t ended up in Nairobi? What if she hadn’t gone on holiday to the UK and decided to stay? What if she wasn’t allowed to stay? When my father was in his early 20s he had to make a decision about his nationality and became a British citizen. Wales became his home and he firmly considered himself Welsh – for the rugby if nothing else! What if he hadn’t been allowed to stay in the UK? What if I had been born in Nairobi? (Mum always says she’s not sure she could have moved to be with him).
In this rich tapestry that is the United Kingdom, my heritage story is not unusual at all – and I love it. That we’re made up of such diversity, can only enrich and enlighten us. You only need to think of a bowl of fruit to know that diversity is good. In my opinion, too much of the same is dull and stifling.
Diversity was my experience of my visits to America too. One holiday in the States, a friend (a Californian) and I played a game: we went up to strangers and asked them where they thought I came from. I was dressed 100% in clothes purchased on holiday and my friend was convinced I looked foreign anyway. The results were mixed (so we were both right!) but the thing I remember from that bit of youthful fun was that not what people thought about my nationality but that not one of the ‘Americans’ we talked to identified as American. They were Polish, Greek, Italian, African –everything! Not one single person said ‘I’m American’. Granted this was more than ten years ago but it stuck with me and I thought it was a fabulous, a land of opportunity made up of all nationalities.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the UK or in America. I can’t help but think that leaving the EU is going to have a worse effect than the current “President” (because for one thing I’m closer to this EU thing, and hopefully America will only be four years – leaving the EU will affect a generation). All I can hope is that those who feel the same way as me – that diversity enhances and enriches us – can band together and ensure a future worth living in.