[But since Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union, latent hostility toward the new arrivals — most of whom came to Boston from Central and Eastern Europe under rules that let European Union citizens live and work anywhere in the bloc — has burst into the open, many immigrants say. Many in the Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Romanian communities in the area are anxiously considering whether they should stay in
, or whether they even want to.] Britain
By Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura
Gregory Pacho, who is Polish-Italian, runs a taxi company and has lived
given serious thought to leaving. Credit Andrew Testa
for The New York Times
Ms. Baginski, 32, said she was stunned. Until that moment, she had never been the target of abuse, even in
, a port town on the east coast of Boston where rancor between longtime residents and
the fast-growing population of recent immigrants has been simmering for years. England
But since Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union, latent hostility toward the new arrivals — most of whom came to Boston from Central and Eastern Europe under rules that let European Union citizens live and work anywhere in the bloc — has burst into the open, many immigrants say. Many in the Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Romanian communities in the area are anxiously considering whether they should stay in
, or whether they even want to. Britain
“Something is broken in this town,” said Paul Gleeson, a Labour Party councilor in
, where 76 percent of voters supported
leaving the European Union, the highest pro-“Brexit” proportion in the country.
“This veneer of propriety has suddenly disappeared.’’ Boston
In this new environment, some immigrants say they have stopped speaking their native tongue in public. Nervous mothers say they worry about their children being bullied at school. Young immigrants say they fear discrimination over jobs and university admissions.
Gregory Pacho, who is Polish-Italian, runs a thriving taxi company. For the first time in the 16 years he has lived in
, he said, he has given serious thought to
moving out, prompted by a leaflet on his car’s windshield that read, “Did you
pack your bags yet?” Boston
Some of his English clients, with whom he joked over the years, no longer talk to him. “In one week, you experience that some people you’ve known for three years change their attitudes 180 degrees,” he said.
Magdalena Korzeb, 34, said she had long considered herself half-Bostonian, having worked, paid taxes and lived here for 11 years with her husband and 5-year-old daughter. Not anymore.
“I feel used. Eleven years wasted. Eleven years ago, they were so happy to invite us here,” she said at the Delight Pub, a Polish bar that she owns on
West Street. (English locals call it “ East Street” because of the number of Eastern European
shops.) “I could now close my shop, pack my bags and say, ‘Bye-bye.’”
But the town came to epitomize the nation’s rising antagonism against immigration, a central issue for voters in the referendum on June 23.
, hundreds of instances of racial abuse and
hate crimes have been reported since the referendum, aimed not just at
immigrants from European Union nations but also at blacks, Muslims and Asians
from other places who were not central to the debate over European immigration.
A Polish family’s home in Britain was set on fire on Thursday; the family was sent a letter that
read, “Go back to your country,” and a warning that the family itself would be
targeted next. Plymouth
In a statement before the case in
, the Polish Embassy in Plymouth said, “We are shocked and deeply concerned
by the recent incidents of xenophobic abuse directed against the Polish
community and other Britain residents of migrant heritage.” U.K.
The attacks have shaken many Britons, who say they are proud of living in a tolerant, multicultural society, and have prompted soul-searching over British values and identity.
Some Bostonians have gone out of their way to reassure their foreign neighbors, leaving messages of support or defending them from abuse. In one case, an Englishman protected a Polish woman from being spat on in the street. And some managers at food factories have sent emails to their immigrant employees expressing appreciation for their work and urging them to stay or apply for British citizenship.
Like the town’s foreign residents, its English citizens are still unclear about what effects the vote to leave the European Union will bring. Although most of the candidates seeking to succeed David Cameron as
’s prime minister have sought to reassure
European immigrants that they will not have to leave, no one really knows what
residency status the immigrants will have once Britain negotiates its exit from the bloc or whether
the flow of people into the country will reverse itself. Britain
In any case, the negotiation is likely to take at least two years once it begins, and in the meantime there is no legal barrier to more European Union immigrants moving to
. As local residents realize that the
immigrants are unlikely to be sent home soon — despite intimations of such an
outcome by some Brexit advocates — frustration in Britain is mounting. Boston
Mr. Pacho, the taxi-company owner, described the atmosphere as a balloon ready to burst with a single prick if it becomes clear that immigrants will not be forced to leave.
“What if the government says, ‘Let’s actually stay in the E.U.,’ or ‘We can’t end freedom of movement’?” he asked. “It will be a third world war here. Businesses will be destroyed. I’ve got a really bad feeling about this.”
Some residents said the outbursts of racial abuse could reflect Leave voters’ disappointment at having to face, for months or even years, the very people they had implicitly rejected in the referendum.
“Welcome to a new England!” was commonly heard in
right after the vote, residents said, shouted
from windows and cars. In a street lined with Eastern European shops, a car was
recently parked with two English flags fluttering from its side mirrors. Boston
There is anecdotal evidence that some immigrants are already leaving. The vote has affected the value of the pound. So some migrant workers, like factory employees or truck drivers, are already starting to return to the Continent because their salaries are worth less in the Polish zlotys, euros or Romanian leu that they send to help support families in their native countries.
Stephen Raven, a councilor in
who is a member of the anti-immigration, anti-European Union U.K.
Independence Party, said he was taking some of the anti-immigrant behavior
displayed here in stride. Boston
“The first year is going to be very awkward, but you have to get past the storm,” he said. “There’s always going to be controversy either way.”
On a recent evening at the Delight Pub, a Polish factory worker and a couple of longtime English clients were sipping Tyskie, a Polish beer. Polish rap and R&B blared from the sound system, and two young women twirled on an empty dance floor lit up by purple lights.
“I ask my daughter every day: ‘Have you been all right at school? Has anyone been nasty to you?’” Ms. Korzeb said, referring to reports that someone had scribbled the names of some schoolchildren from immigrant backgrounds on the school’s toilet stalls alongside the words “Go home.”
She said she was riddled with doubts. “Is someone going to come and make our lives so difficult for us so that we leave? Are they going to cut services for us? What are they going to do without us?” she asked. “I’m thinking about my daughter. What did I do to her? All her childhood is here.”
“Oh, my God. It was a mistake to come here.”
Follow Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura on Twitter @kimidefreytas