“Brexit feels like a rejection of what is different, and the indifference of a vast proportion of the population suggests their complicity.”
Simon (England and Spain)
In the aftermath of the EU referendum, many UK-based Europeans have been left with feelings of insecurity and anxiety about what the future might hold for them and their families.
This photoblog offers a snapshot of their experiences, capturing their thoughts and emotions following this momentous and potentially life-changing political decision.
Photography and text © Susana de Dios Photography.
Simon (England and Spain)
Amaya (Germany and Spain)
In the months I spent photographing EU nationals and listening to their stories the common theme that emerged was that for a migrant the concept of home is rarely static.
When we decide to move away and leave behind the comfort and security of our country of birth – our original home – we begin to construct another identity for ourselves. An identity in which resilience and adaptability become the essential building blocks, but that can’t be forged successfully without a strong sense of belonging.
The Brexit vote has shaken that sense of belonging for many of us, and has made us really question, perhaps for the first time, our place in the world. Do we belong in this country? If not, where is “home”?
I recently caught up with Amaya after meeting her for the first time back in October 2016. We took a walk around her local University campus and chatted about the importance of belonging, a future full of hope and possibilities and her renewed enthusiasm for and commitment to the European project.
I recently caught up with Anette again on a freezing cold January morning after meeting her for the first time in February 2017. We took a stroll around her favourite nature reserve and talked about a possible future in Germany for her and her British partner whilst searching for the elusive bittern bird in the reeds at the water's edge.
It was a pleasure to catch up with Anna – and her adorable dog Angel - again after meeting them in August 2016. We took a stroll in her favourite park to chat about Brexit, Catalonian independence and why you should look after your toys properly. Anna's optimism and energy are infectious and probably the reason why she is riding the post-Brexit wave more successfully than most.
After meeting Michele in October 2016, it was a pleasure to catch up with her again in her beautiful London "home from home". Always candid, outspoken and good fun, we chatted about colourful socks, the Empire and how young people are our only hope.
After meeting Simona in November 2016, I recently caught up with her again to see how life has changed a year on from the Brexit vote. Now based in north London, we met up at her local park to talk about trees, diversity and the post-referendum hangover.
Gabriela comes from Romania. She met Tim - and Englishman and her now husband - in the Czech Republic in 2012 when they were both working for the same company. After a couple of years they decided to move away from the Czech Republic as the language barrier meant that Tim found it difficult to adapt and integrate.
At the time Gabriela would have needed a work permit to come and work in the UK, so they moved to Ireland temporarily instead. When the immigration restrictions were lifted, they both moved to the UK, where they have lived and worked since 2014.
Gabriela is a Modern Languages graduate and has a PhD in Contemporary British Literature. She works as a team leader in the finance department of a global company dealing in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories.
Anette comes from Germany and met her British partner while on holiday in Bali. She moved to the UK to be with him in 2011.
Her background is in Sociology and Politics but in Germany she worked as a travel editor for the online version of a German national newspaper. Anette continued writing for German websites and magazines once in the UK.
Anette also has a keen interest in photography. She has experience photographing wildlife and nature, and has also dabbled in fine art photography. She would like to develop this further in the future and establish herself as a photographer.
Rimante arrived in the UK from Lithuania in 2014 looking to further her education and find better opportunities for herself. She studied Multimedia at her local University for two years and then completed a course on alternative therapies.
For the last nine months she has worked for the buying department of a builders' merchant and home improvement retailer, a role she has found exciting and challenging and that has allowed her to develop and learn new skills.
Ramon came to the UK from the Catalonia region of Spain in 2003 after qualifying as a flight attendant.
For the first year he worked in a fast food chain in order to settle into the country and improve his English. In 2004 he went back to Spain to undergo the selection process for a flight attendant position with a major airline. Ramon was successful and stayed in Spain for a month to receive his training.
After completing this, he returned to the UK and started working at London airports. He was soon promoted to a more senior role and moved to a Midlands regional airport, where he currently works.
Begoña came to the UK from the Asturias region of Spain 12 years ago to improve her command of English.
She worked as a waitress whilst perfecting the language and, thanks to her background in Economics and her knowledge of Spanish and English, was soon able to find a position in the international finance sector.
Her plan was to use this experience to build up her CV and return to Spain with a better chance of finding a job there. However, she soon met the man she would eventually marry, decided to stay in the country, and gave birth to a daughter four years ago.
Begoña has worked for the same company, a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories, for the past 11 years, first on a customer service role for the Spanish market and now in a management position within the Finance department of one of the company's major brands.
Yvonne came to the UK from Germany in 2010 to study Economics as part of the Erasmus exchange programme.
After completing her studies in the UK she went back to Germany to finish her degree and then returned to the UK to take up an internship working for a start-up company as a sporting and social events organiser for international students.
She then took up a position with the British Medical Association in London as an events organiser for a period of four years. After meeting her current partner, they both moved to a different part of the country, where he had been offered a place to study Medicine.
Since 2015 Yvonne has been working for a builders' merchant and home improvement retailer in the international sales department. Unsure about what the situation in this country will be in the coming years, Yvonne is hoping to train as a teacher and move to Spain with her partner in the future.
Jadwiga came to the UK from Poland in 2010. She soon found employment as a warehouse worker, which she combined with a part-time teaching position at a Polish school.
She then worked for a leading international infrastructure company as an office administrator, and later on in the probation sector as part of a learning and development team, coordinating training for probation officers.
Jadwiga is currently working as a personal development coordinator for an organisation that helps individuals struggling with homelessness, offending, substance misuse and mental health problems. She is also keen to explore her creative side and is furthering her skills as a photographer, hoping that one day she will be able to combine her passion for helping people with her passion for photography.
Simona moved to the UK from Italy in 2009. She holds a Diploma in Business and International Studies, however, after taking cello lessons in her hometown she realised that her true calling was pursuing a career in music.
She worked in a pub for a few years, joined a folk band and immersed herself in the local music scene, collaborating with musicians and singer-songwriters and performing with orchestras in a wide variety of festivals across the country.
In 2014 she received a scholarship to purchase a new musical instrument and enrolled to study a BA in Music Performance in one of the country's leading conservatoires. After completing her studies, Simona would like to carry on working in the music industry, either in a performing or teaching role.
Amaya grew up in a German-Spanish household. Originally from La Paz, she was adopted by a German mother and a Spanish father and lived in various countries throughout her childhood.
She moved to the UK in 2006 to start a Degree in Economics and, after completing her studies, spent the following year and a half doing volunteering work with refugees and local organisations helping the most vulnerable in society.
She then moved to the Netherlands for a year to study European politics at postgraduate level. However, Amaya found the country unwelcoming and struggled to fit in, so she decided to return to England and shortly after found a job at the Citizens Advice Bureau, where she still works today.
Alzbeta came to the UK in 2014 from Slovakia to pursue her passion for music. She applied to University in the UK and was accepted into a BA in Music (Jazz) course, which she will complete in May 2017.
With no previous training in jazz music, Alzbeta came to the UK not knowing what to expect. Here she found a welcoming multicultural community and a thriving jazz music scene, where she regularly performs. She regards her decision to move to this country as the best decision she has made in her life.
After completing her Degree, Alzbeta would like to continue her studies in Music and is currently applying to Masters Programmes both here and in other European countries. However, she is open-minded about her future and is also considering taking a gap year to explore another one of her passions – studying to become a Yoga instructor in India.
Michèle arrived in the UK from the Vendée region of France in 1997 to take a position as a Language Assistant at a British university, a job she held for two years.
She then started a Postgraduate Degree in Education to train as a French teacher in the secondary education sector. After completing her studies Michèle worked in various schools across the East Midlands for a period of 10 years.
Following this, she decided to take a break from teaching and completed a Diploma in Environmental Conservation, trained as a Park ranger and did volunteering work for the National Trust.
However, finding paid work in the environmental sector proved difficult, so Michèle went back to the teaching profession and started working in Special Needs schools and then in a Pupil Referral Unit as a teacher for vulnerable children. She hopes she can one day combine her love of teaching with her love for the environment.