Dimitar Lambov: A year in the life of a Bulgarian migrant in the UK

GMT 11:30 Monday ,23 December 2013

 Migrant Voice - Dimitar Lambov: A year in the life of a Bulgarian migrant in the UK

Dimitar Lambov

I brought in 2013 at a street party in Glasgow, watching slightly drunk Scotsmen trying to set off a Chinese lantern while dancing to Gangnam style. It was fun. I closed my eyes and wished for a happier year (2012 had been rather turbulent and not in a very good way) and sealed the moment for posterity with my mobile. Turns out I was gonna need all the luck I had. In 2013 I moved from Glasgow to London and just like my move from Bulgaria to Scotland 4 years before my head was full of questions and worries. I left behind someone who loved me and someone who I loved. I left friends and colleagues whom I cared about and who I've shared 8 hours of my day with ‘in sickness and in health’ for just over 2 years. The little streets corners I knew, the places I’d been and how I felt when I saw them for the first time – were all behind me. I wondered how many Scots before me have made the same journey and if they had the ‘I'm different’ feeling that I had in me. In 2013 that feeling was even stronger than back in 2008 when I first moved to the UK. I watched shows like Question Time and was witness to how the political choir came to a crescendo over EU rules they had 7 years to discuss. I read the comments under articles on the BBC and the Guardian where both camps clashed over Bulgarians and Romanians ‘stealing’ people’s jobs, ‘claiming’ billions in benefits and even decimating the British countryside with the housing that they’ll need when the whole peninsula’s population moves over. I even had a date, who knew I was Bulgarian yet proceeded to argue for an hour and a half that immigration is killing the UK. He had lived for years in Japan and Saudi Arabia but that was clearly a different thing, right? I wondered why he referred to himself (along with people from Australia, US and Canada ) as ‘expats’ while those from Bulgaria, Nigeria and Pakistan were clearly labelled ‘migrants’? Seeing these labels multiply, I remembered the Bulgarian Plamen Petkov who drowned saving a British girl. A man the newspapers called ‘a 32-year-old British-Bulgarian from Sutton’, and ‘British citizen of Bulgarian descent’. He wasn't from Sutton any more than I am from Glasgow yet Britain was willing to adopt him as one of its own and brand the rest of us ‘benefit scroungers’. Was his sacrifice the ultimate proof of his Britishness? What was I willing to sacrifice to be accepted - I had already given up living with my relatives, communicating in my native tongue, my childhood stories and the shared-between-Bulgarians culture worth nothing in the UK. Did I have something in me that still set me apart and ached every time Bulgarians and Romanians were used as examples of the worst of Europe? And was I supposed to feel better when people assured me they have nothing against Bulgarians, it’s ‘the Roma’ they want to keep out? In 2013 I witnessed Bulgaria’s own full-frontal clash with the issue of immigration as 7 thousand refugees from the war in Syria became the victim of racial hatred and gave a serious boost to our own home bred nationalist movement. This, in the same country that during WW2 did not surrender its Jews to Hitler. Did I have the moral high ground to demand equal rights for Bulgarian migrants abroad when in my own country people in need were put in refugee camps in horrendous conditions? Could I blame them for dreaming to be granted refugee status so that they could leave and journey West to a better life? In 2013 I took a step further on my own personal journey to learn to love and accept those who think differently yet stand up for what I believe in and lend my voice to those whose voice is hard to hear but are worth listening to.  Ironically I think this makes me a bit more British. Or perhaps it’s more human. You decide.


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