by Anita Graafland
“I moved to Cornwall nearly 7 years ago, after 20 years in the UK as a French citizen. Settling in was “interesting” and people were moved that we came from Croydon, and we got a warm welcome back then because they felt for us having lived in the capital’s suburbs. I also felt a deep connection with people here which I can only assume is due to my Breton heritage. However, when Brexit hit, I got slammed with a double whammy, I was a foreigner and an incomer and people didn’t like that I was challenging their leave vote might be for the wrong reasons… I believe Remain in Cornwall would never have worked because it would be voting with Westminster at the time. And as sad as that is, I think that’s what’s happened. The EU cared more for Cornwall than the UK did but the UK gaslighted the EU at every chance they got. It’s a tragedy, but still, we fought and still fight very hard to move those preconceptions. I’m glad in a way that I got to my half-life without having to worry about my core identity, I have grown into my shoes and now I have strength that no-one is going to take away. And I will pass it on to everyone who is willing to listen… forever! Keep going people, chin up, challenge and we’ll get there for our children and future generations!”
Our former chair Emmanuelle was the first public face of Cornwall for Europe I met, as I attended an anti-Brexit meeting in Penryn. I’d felt a bit lost: in all the anti-Brexit discussions I’d followed, the perspective had invariably been on what Brits stood to lose when leaving the European Union, and I didn’t feel it was my place to say anything about the havoc it was about to wreak on my life. But there she was: the very chair of the Cornwall for Europe movement, a naturalised Cornishwoman originally from France, sharing her story, her anguish and love for this country and for Cornwall. I felt heard and validated. Afterwards I went up to talk to her and what I got was vintage Em: she gave me a massive hug and referred me to the 3 million website. I was in tears of relief: I wasn’t alone!
When I joined the CfE Exec because I wanted to do something, anything, I found her again, and realised that her big heart may be Emmanuelle’s most notable feature, but that she’s also a key motivator, an indestructible driving force and a true-blooded revolutionary – her French roots coming out in all their glorious perfection. To this day, she’s waiting for her fellow Brits to rise up and finally say that enough is enough. No “keep calm and carry on” for her, she’s a firebrand who believes in making the country a better place for all, at the personal and emotional level, not in any abstract sort of way. I believe it is new Britons like her that will end up saving the country.