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Lucas's Story

My Austrian citizenship opened up doors.

Lucas was born in the UK and was 17 years old when the Brexit referendum happened. He wasn’t able to vote and felt it was unfair that he didn’t have a say in a decision which would significantly affect his future. When the UK left the EU, he felt motivated to look into his family’s past, and he discovered he was eligible for Austrian citizenship.

“I grew up in an international household, where we had very close ties to different countries in the EU. I speak German, French and Spanish, I always saw my future as being open to multicultural exchanges, and experiences abroad, being able to work across Europe. The outcome of the Brexit referendum jarred with my view of the UK, as open to Europe.

My mum’s father was born in Germany to Austrian parents. His mum had fled Austria in 1931. She was Jewish and known to the regime, so she had to leave. When Austria changed the law in 2019 and allowed descendants of people who fled the Nazis to apply, I started looking into my family’s history, to apply for Austrian citizenship. 

It was a process where I felt quite a lot was at stake. It was a way of reconnecting to my past and at the same time opening up possibilities for my future. 

I had to obtain proof of where people in my family lived, why they left different countries, retracing their journeys across the globe. I had the help of a historian who was volunteering in the archives and who was interested in citizenship restitution cases. I found the boat on which my great-grandmother travelled on from Austria to Buenos Aires, through Italy. We found Argentinian immigration records which showed my great-grandmother’s journey.

After half a year, I got confirmation of my Austrian citizenship. It felt like it opened up doors which had closed for me with Brexit. The ceremony was special and provided a moment to reflect about the circumstances in which my ancestors left Austria. It was bittersweet, as so many people lost this opportunity and making amends was long overdue. It’s a complicated relationship I have with European-ness, but now it’s a part of my identity which I’m able to explore. It’s more than past generations had. 

I’m working in London at the moment, but I intend to use the rights and freedoms that my Austrian citizenship grants me to live and work in the EU at some point. I’ve already missed out on Erasmus and other youth mobility schemes, which I would have loved to do. I think it’s a shame young people aren’t provided with these freedoms anymore.

I’m training to be a lawyer, and I’m working with people who have suffered as a result of unfairness in the immigration system. I’ve worked with victims of the Windrush scandal, helping them get compensation, and it’s frightening to see the similarities with what some EU citizens in the UK are experiencing through the EU Settlement Scheme.

I think the relationship between the UK and the EU has to become closer; there’s no avoiding it, we’re neighbours. It’s crucial the rights of both British citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK are protected. While I don’t believe freedom of movement will return, it would be great to see some work mobility, to a greater extent than we have at the moment.

There’s also so much for us to learn through language exchanges, and for young people, it can open up so many doors. School trips being accessible to more kids, and European teachers being able to teach their language in our schools, would make a huge difference. I felt a huge connection to that part of my identity by learning German, even before I found out I could gain Austrian citizenship. 

We’ve had enough of division, and I think it should be the moment to focus on how we can come together, learn from each other and open up possibilities and opportunities for everyone.”

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