Name: Alexandra Bulat
Nationality: Romanian, British
Occupation/Job: Co-Manager, Young Europeans Network and Labour County Councillor, Cambridgeshire County Council
Moved to the UK in 2012
Nominated by: The 3 Million
In his 1983 book Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson introduced the concept of the ‘imagined community’ to analyse nationalism. Nations, in his view, were constructed by society, becoming imagined categories for people to relate to.
For me, a community is about what we identify with, rather than what society has told us to be part of. Sometimes, these identities match – I was born and grew up in Romania and I describe myself as part of the Romanian community abroad.
‘I am proud to be a migrant’
However, I also consider myself British. I naturalised as a British citizen last year, and if I am asked about my nationality, I now say I am British-Romanian. Not everyone accepts this new identity of mine – indeed, a few people told me that because I am not ‘born and bred’ in the UK, I cannot possibly be or feel British.
Becoming a British citizen does not mean that my migrant identity disappeared. I will always be a first-generation migrant to the UK and will relate to migrant communities. I will always say I am proud to be a migrant. Nine years ago when I arrived in the UK, I struggled understanding what my flatmates were saying in English and I did not know much about my rights or politics in the UK. Last year, I graduated with a PhD and this year I became the first Romanian-born County Councillor.
Making my community a better place
As a councillor, but also as a resident in Cambridge, I try everyday to make my community a better place. Every week, I go door knocking on a different street in the area I represent. I ask residents what their problems are and try to solve them as best as I can.
If I had to choose one thing I am proud to have done for the community, it would be volunteering as an Level 1 (EUSS) Immigration Adviser for the past couple of years. When the EU Settlement Scheme was launched, I could see that some EU citizens would struggle to apply for their post-Brexit status, due to limited language or digital skills, amongst other reasons. So I applied for accreditation as an adviser through a charity and I have done online and offline information sessions and helped people with individual applications, in particular from the Romanian community. For instance, here in Cambridge where I live, I volunteered at an information stall in front of the council and also did a presentation about migrants’ rights at the Church where we have a Romanian priest.
Informing migrants about rights in the UK is part of my wider migrants’ rights activism. Since 2017, I have been volunteering, and then working part-time for the3million campaigning on EU citizens’ rights. I now co-manage the Young Europeans Network, the youth wing of the3million, advocating for making citizenship and democracy more accessible. One of the first the3million activities was an outdoor gathering where volunteers held the letters: THIS IS OUR HOME.
‘The UK is my home’
What is home? There is not one specific moment when I started feeling at home. Even in my first months in the UK, I felt home in the multicultural university campus. I felt home when speaking with people who shared similar experiences with me. Equally, even after nine years in the UK, in some circumstances I do not feel at home – for instance, when I received some xenophobic comments, I started questioning my belonging in the UK. But I always come back to the fact that the UK is my home. It is where I spent all my adult life and where I want to continue to develop my friendships, my career and where I ultimately want to stay.
Sharing my story as a migrant
I am writing this as an International Migrants Day Ambassador. I think it is so important to tell our stories of migration. I grew up in an area which was very monocultural – the only ‘migrants’ I met in my childhood and teenage years were international students coming to the university near where I lived. Often we do not get the chance to hear the lived experiences of people who happened to be born in another country, but who are now our neighbours. I wanted to become an IMD Ambassador to share pieces of my story as a migrant and to show that migrants are part of our communities.