One of the most visible signs of Britain’s membership of the EU in recent years has been the Polski Sklep.
Polish grocery stores have popped up on the High Streets of most big towns, responding to the growing population of Eastern Europeans in the UK.
Pod Orlem, in Cambridge, is one of them. Inside the shop, the shelves are packed with expat favourites like Goralki chocolate wafers, Winiary pasta sauces and spicy ketchups. Two Polish football shirts are pinned high in the window in honour of Euro 2016.
The staff and customers smile and chat as if it’s a normal Friday. But it’s soon apparent that hurt and anger lie close beneath the surface as a result of Britain’s decision to leave Europe. It’s never been suggested that people already in the UK would have to leave but there is a measure of fear nonetheless.
“I feel really bitter and emotional about it,” says Iwona Erikson, cradling her baby daughter in one arm.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought – 50% of the people here are racist. They have decided: ‘We don’t want foreigners here.’ I had never felt discriminated against until now.
“But I’ve lived here for eight years – for my whole adult life. It’s been my home.
“I wouldn’t have met my husband without the EU, because we met through the Erasmus programme. My daughter is an EU baby!”
Erikson, who works in digital marketing, received an email from her chief executive trying to reassure staff.
“I work for an international education provider so we will be affected. My colleague was crying today. She said she didn’t want to be forced to go back to Poland.”
Erikson, who is married to a British-Australian, said the referendum has prompted the couple to start planning a move to Australia.
“The right-wing nationalist parties are getting stronger in Britain, in France and Poland. I fear that this could be the end of peace in Europe.
“My big concern on moving is that all my savings here are in pounds and they have lost their value.”
Sylwia Sawska, serving customers behind a counter piled high with long pork sausages and cheeses, is also worried.
“People are so nice here, nicer than in Poland, so I’m very surprised they voted to leave,” she says.
While the East of England voted to leave, Cambridge bucked the trend by voting overwhelmingly to stay.
“I was proud of that. It’s a beautiful city – small and friendly.”
Sawska, 20, has been working in the shop for five months. She moved from Poland with her parents and younger brother six months ago.
“My mother cleans houses and my stepfather and brother work in building,” she says.
“We felt welcome here and the pay is good. I can earn 7 an hour, while in Poland I would earn 1.50 an hour.
“I planned to stay here for 10 or 15 years but now I don’t know what we will do.
“If we must go home we will have to start from scratch again.”
While around three-quarters of customers at Pod Orlem are Polish, the rest are a mix of Russians, other Eastern Europeans and Britons.
Ksenia Drozdova is Estonian. She is a freelance translator and pops in to the shop to buy groceries that remind her of home.
“I came to Britain exactly seven years ago. My mother was over here working and I came first for a summer job.”
Drozdova is worried about the implications the referendum will have, although she is more sympathetic to those who voted to leave.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to affect me and that’s what worries me most.
“My partner and daughter Emilia are British, but I’m still on an Estonian passport.
“I understand that some people voted to leave so more money could be spent on Britain and perhaps to cut down on benefits of migrants. In that sense maybe it’s for the best.
“I just hope Europeans who work and live in Britain will be able to stay.”
Another Sylwia, an accountant who has lived in the UK for 12 years, has a similar attitude.
“I understand some English people are OK with the foreign people who are here now but they don’t want any more. I think that’s why they voted out.
“But my boyfriend is English and he voted out so I’m quite angry with him about it.
“I had planned to settle here but now I don’t know. I think the economy will be in trouble and I’m now worried for my future.”
With that she takes her shopping bags and passes through the chain door curtain, like so many others, uncertain of what her future holds.
Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36627394