Andreja Brulc's Blog

Things of the Past: 10 Nov 1991

Posted in Things of the Past by andrejabrulc on 11/11/2016

This post – or rather a diary entry of today – is not about my favourite artist of all times, Matisse, and his two paintings (Dance and Music from The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg) that have inspired me as a leitmotif in the joie de vivre – both of which I managed to see displayed opposite each other in the Matisse show in Paris (1993) and, even more, I personally encountered the Dance at the Royal Academy of Arts while working there on the show called From Russia (2008). Although there are analogies between the two paintings and this post, the post is nonetheless about one of my 10 anniversaries (10 Commandments List 2016) that I am celebrating this year – i.e. today is 25 years since I was refused to enter UK on a YU passport (10 Nov 1991)!

dance

I have been writing a blog post “‘I ONCE WAS A REFUGEE’ or ‘WAS I AFTER BRITISH PASSPORT’?”, the title of which is based on two things of the past I was accused of. The post is triggered as a result of the interview for my first British passport that took place 14 days before the UK referendum on EU membership. I was asked two questions for which I had not been prepared and are core to my blog post: the history of my settlement in the UK and why I have not applied for a passport for so long after my naturalization process in April 2012! The interview opened up ‘THE  WOUND’ that kind of magically got suppressed into ‘the bubble of a politically correct world’, into which I have somehow managed to integrate! I have now decided to make it public once and for all as a process of reconciliation through the blog post – especially since I am not ‘friends with taboos’ and I feel I have the right to say now that I am FINALLY a British citizen, and, above all, it is vital from my own perspective that I deal with the issue and move on. But, all I can say, I shall never forget this most ‘surreal’ experience in my whole life apart from the two events of air-bombing by the YU army! I know the latter sounds very pathetic in comparison to what happened in Bosnia or any other war zones past and present, but I DID nevertheless experience the bombs above my head after all, and the feeling of fear from bombing was not nice then and is not pleasant even so many years on!!! No wonder why I turned out to be a fully-fledged pacifist that is top-to-bottom inside-out ANTI anything-and-everything to do with guns, violence and wars! The piece is still unfinished but I thought I would share an extract from it as it is relevant to today’s anniversary:

“I once was ‘a refugee from the YU war zone’ if only for a few hours, while being put into a detention centre at Dover – if only verbally labeled by border officials since my YU passport did not have information about the state in which I was born (FYI, there were 6 states within YU)!

It was my 23rd birthday (10 Nov 1991). 10pm. I was offered a portion of fish and chips by one of the immigration officers ‘in order to heal my headache’ [exactly his words]! But no cake! Not even a slice of sugar! Forget about a glass of wine! Austerity budget cuts already felt even then! Luckily, I was not alone ‘at my birthday party’. It was just two of us, that’s all. My ‘dance’ companion. A man with no name. A bloke from Africa. Did he invite himself, or did I send him an invite? I cannot remember. It does not matter. But he was there. Someone was there. Someone came to my party. I was not alone. Together we ‘danced’ to ‘the music’ as motionless and silent as figures in Matisse’s Dance and Music waiting to be given to ‘the right owner’! We were so exhausted from ‘the party’, to a degree that neither of us felt hungry or thirsty! Just in total ‘ecstasy’ from such gloriously momentous joie de vivre!

What happened to him, I have no idea, poor chap, but I am sure he was less fortunate than myself. After all these years all I wished I knew his name! Please forgive me, my invisible ‘dance’ companion! The border officials explained to my then British boyfriend (now husband) that my chances of a re-appeal were very high in ‘my favour’ –

‘because she is a WHITE European.’ [exactly their words]

EXCLAMATION MARK.”

music

Thank you very much to those who have helped me on the way (I shall not identify you by name, but, if you are reading this ‘waffle’, you can recognise yourselves as you may still remember my ‘wonderful’ experience in Dover, although the last ‘bit’ in single inverted commas is being made public only now! Now, as a naturalised Brit, I am finally able to say that I am not proud of that ‘welcoming’! I have never ever talked about it openly before – BUT as the wound came out of the blue at the passport interview like those bombings from the clear blue sky during those surreal moments in June of 1991 (imagine the madness in Apocalypse Now accompanied by the tunes of The Doors, that’s how it felt), I decided it is high time I dealt with it, yet that horrendous experience will never be forgotten: not a very pleasant feeling to be living with ‘having a privilege’ knowing that I was racially compared to someone from Africa as a superior human being ‘because I am white’, before I had even decided to move to UK for good! My ultimate question now is, after Brexit, as to why I did not make a U-turn then! I am now not only labeled a WHITE European, but also, since this year, as an EASTERN European from the EU! Because of hate speech that has entered into a public domain as it has been given a valid currency again after years of being suppressed. You may think why do I care about all of this as after all I am a Brit. Not quite – it is not that easy. After all, the anti-immigration insults were/are also against me, too! Against my origins! Or shall I just say, WTF – I shall dance to the music and ski in between: I am a Slovene by origin, a British by personal choice, a European by cultural heritage and, above, a citizen of the world by heart and soul! White supremacy and xenophobia based on geographical and cultural identities as well as religions can just bugger off!

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