I sent off my postal vote for the UK’s EU referendum before I left for three weeks working and travelling in the post-Soviet southern caucasus.
Here lots of people ask about Brexit. We’ve been asked if there are any ‘pure-blooded’ French or English people left. I’ve been told that Europe is completely swamped by Muslims, and requested that next time London not vote for a Muslim mayor. We’ve changed currencies, had problems on borders because one country was not happy that I had stamps in my passport from its neighbour. At one birthday party we drank a toast to the soldiers who are dying in a squalid and vicious little war with the neighbouring country, and the soldiers on leave asked me if I wanted to stay in the EU. “What for? You should vote out and then you can join us here in the southern Caucasus!!! Gales of laughter.
The EU feels a long way from here, although Europe does not – everyone has relatives living in France or Britain or Germany; most are living on the money sent back from wealthy, secure Europe by these relatives. Most of them lost grandfathers and uncles ‘defeating fascism’ in the European battlefields of World War 2.
Most of these countries are at war now or have recently been at war with their neighbours or with breakaway parts of their own countries. Everyone hates someone else for their religion or ethnicity or supposed historical claim to a piece of land. After decades of war and atrocity and corruption and economic instability, many of these countries have more diaspora living in other countries – recent or historical immigrants – than they have populations at home. And yet their first question about Europe is about ‘pure-blood’ and the ravening hordes of immigrants.
So I’m not in the UK or even the EU for today’s vote, and maybe what I’m writing sounds irrelevant and far away. For me, it is neither far away nor irrelevant. I don’t want my country to turn into this.