Mind the Brexit Gap: Speech of Donata Simonaitiene, ESOL Tutor & Cavan Lithuanian School Principal

“Being an optimist, I see Brexit as an opportunity for us to accept and embrace change with a positive attitude.”

Here is the full speech of Donata Simonaitiene, ESOL Tutor & Cavan Lithuanian School Principal on “Brexit and My Hope for the Future.”

“Mind the Brexit Gap: Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion in the Border,” A Philippine Independence Day Event, Cavan Crystal Hotel, June 1, 2019

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My name is Donata Simonaitiene. I came from Luthuania. I have been living in Ireland now for 16 years. I have studied Literature and Language, got my Masters Degree in Lithuania. After my studies were finished I decided to continue to go more the academic way and started my PhD. But a big factory in my town closed, about 5000 people were left jobless. Just like that, in a night! And my husband decided to emigrate. Emigration was never ever on our books. We have a lovely house, just started a family, I had my education, I had my studies. I worked in school as a teacher, so we never ever imagined living in a foreign country. I am very happy that I’ve learned English in school, so that helped. I couldn’t say the same about my husband. When he moved here he had not a word of English. So that was the journey here. When we moved to Ireland, of course, everything changed. Coming from an academic background, I started working in retail as a manager. I had to embrace different challenges, to do a different job I was not used to do. But of course I can never forget my Lithuanian roots, that is why we started the Lithuanian School eleven years ago in Cavan and every Saturday from 9am-1pm we teach children Lithuanian language, culture, and history. We have about 70 children this year who graduated from the school. So we are very happy to a have a big Lithuanian community attending. I would like first of all to congratulate the Philippines on their Independence Day. Lithuania, our country, celebrates two independence days one in 1918 when we restored our state and another one in 1990 when we got independence from the Soviet Union. We understand how it is important to celebrate independence day, so thank you Vanda for inviting us.

Talking about Brexit from my point of view, I want to look at it from a different angle. We people in general we don’t like change. We like being stuck in our comfort zone, have less worries because if you look at it now, we don’t have huge issues or life-threatening problems ahead. We all have homes, we have food on the table, we have no worries about tomorrow. As such, we like our comfort zone. But if you are stuck in a comfort zone, there is no learning. There is no ambition. There is no achievement. We just had a meeting with educators, I work as a teacher as well, I teach foreign nationals the English language. And at the conference we were told that 43% of people in Ireland have Level 5 education. So that shows that we are happy to be stuck in our comfort zone. So when things like Brexit comes, it shows us, that with the changes here, are we ready for a change? When we talk about Brexit we like to use the negative vocabulary. We talk about gaps, divorce, exiting, division… Being an optimist I always see opportunity. An opportunity for us people to remember that the world is changing. And it is changing a lot. And we are having bigger changes upon us. We have climate change, we have global warming coming. We need to embrace the change and try to do whatever we can. One joke says, “Give me coffee to change the things I can, and wine to accept those that I cannot. So I wish every single one of you that you can embrace and accept all the changes that are coming, without wine, but with a very positive attitude. Thank you for having me here.