COMMUNITY

Greeks in the UK share their thoughts on Brexit

DIMITRIS ATHINAKIS

A member of staff looks at ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)’ by British artist David Hockney at Tate Britain.

TAGS: Society

Greeks living and working in Britain are increasingly asking themselves, and others, “How will we manage after Brexit?” They feel at sea and try to shrug off the unease by telling themselves “this cannot happen here.”

It is impossible to know for sure, but it’s quite likely many Greeks will be forced to leave Britain due to the costs involved in staying: Studying in the UK will probably be out of reach for most due to high fees, while obtaining permanent residence status won’t be cheap either, and then of course there’s the bureaucracy.

Kathimerini posed a question similar to that above to five young Greeks living and working in the UK: Natalie Katsou, Konstantina Korryvanti, Charilaos Nikolaidis and Konstantinos Papacharalambos in England and Ioannis Kalkounos in Scotland. They are all poets with at least one published collection each.

Science fiction

Natalie Katsou (born in 1982) has been living in London since 2010 and works as a lecturer in theater studies. “Brexit, as it sounds, remains in the realm of science fiction right now but it has a similar dynamic to the constantly postponed Grexit,” she said. “And, as is fitting to British irony and demonic wit, we artists and creators, who stand for the transgression of all borders, find ourselves stuck in the same vicious cycle of competition as bankers and investors. We are competing with them at the international level. In this relentless marathon, London offers us the chance to cooperate with people from all over the world and to create. There is room for everyone but each person has to make it on their own,” she said.

New coordinates

“‘And what should they know of England who only England know?’ Rudyard Kipling mused. Coming up to a year living in England, and with the threat of Brexit hanging over us, I am kind of changing coordinates,” said Konstantina Korryvanti (born in 1989), who studied political science, history and international relations at Panteion University and today works at the University of Essex as a coordinator for its Law School PhD program. “I saw my personal fears reflected in those of hundreds of young people who have put their hopes in the heavy industry that is higher education,” she said. “With uncertainty basically dictating the major questions of a generation, every application for PhD studies from European citizens, overwhelmingly Greeks, is accompanied by a host of questions. What will happen with fees, loans? What will happen with, but chiefly what will happen without. At least poetry lives its double life, in the countryside of eastern England and at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in the initiative ‘Memory Maps,’ which is dedicated to Essex,” Korryvanti told Kathimerini.

Hard times

Charilaos Nikolaidis (born 1986) also works at the University of Essex, as a lecturer in public law and human rights. “I work at the Law School of the University of Essex, part of a community of more than 130 different nationalities. And yet the United Kingdom shuts itself off from this mosaic of people and cultures. It was slogans, not ideas, which led the United Kingdom to where it is today. In the classroom, analyses of the constitutional repercussions of the referendum have intensified and dominate debate. At home, poetry calls on us to defend its role in a world that we are now obliged to design from scratch. These are tough times for poets – and not only for them. Tough, and therefore interesting,” he said.

‘I believe in the future’

Konstantinos Papacharalambos (born 1988) works as a property surveyor. He seems to be of the same opinion as Nikolaidis. “There’s no need to beg for interesting times – the votes of our British friends have delivered just that. It’s a relief that, so far, the British economy has retained its dynamism, despite the fluctuations in the value of the pound. At work, it’s business as usual. But a major change like an exit from the European Union does not lend itself to simplistic conclusions. The economy faces massive challenges, possibly also certain opportunities for a different, better, model. That doesn’t detract from the shock I felt last June: six years after arriving in London, the cosmopolitan capital of the world, to see it in sharp conflict with the rest of the country. The global city is always a source of inspiration for my work in poetry and ongoing experimentation. So I am curious to see London become a springboard for a broad, interactive dialogue in poetry and in contemporary art at this time of historic change. Yes, I believe in the future – I believe in the things that we can correct through hard work,” he told Kathimerini.

Still positive

Ioannis Kalkounos (1988) lives and works in the country that voted overtly in favor of the UK remaining in the EU: Scotland. “When I arrived in Edinburgh, holding my suitcase, for postgraduate studies in 2011, I didn’t imagine that I could make this city my home. Five years later, after the referendum on June 23, the very foundations of life in the United Kingdom were shaken. Scotland, however, voted 62 percent in favor of staying in the EU, a message whose practical significance remains to be seen in the coming months. On the surface, nothing really seems to have changed yet, apart from the fact that my plans for the future are restricted to the next two years, unsurprisingly as everything we had deemed certain and safe on a global level is disappearing. I’m still positive though,” he said.

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