A Holocaust survivor subjected to reliving her worst memories as a result of Brexit bureaucracy has been granted the right to remain in the UK following intervention from her MP and us.
Irena Jendrycha was four when she moved to Scotland, having been saved by US troops just minutes before Nazis planned on murdering her and her mother in an Austrian concentration camp when she was just months old.
Ms Jendrycha has never owned a passport and said the process of applying for settled status in the wake of the UK’s exit from the European Union had left her feeling “drained” and like “all the goodness had been sucked from the world”.
Despite taking part in the Home Office settled status process, Ms Jendrycha said she was “left in the dark” over whether she would be given “a legal right” to stay in the country she has spent 73 years living in.
Dundee MP Chris Law welcomed the Home Office decision to grant her settled status but warned only 2% of the six million settled status applications have been sent from people aged over 65.
Ray of light
But even with the upset caused by recalling her traumatic history, Irena said one nice thing had come about, in the form of a letter from a reader.
Following our telling her story, one kind-hearted Carnoustie septuagenarian reached out to her by mail to tell her how sorry they were to hear what she had experienced.
“I don’t know who this person is; I don’t think I have ever met them,” she said.
“But they wrote to me, having read the story in the newspaper, and said they ‘could not begin to imagine’ how I was coping.
“They said they were so sorry for what I had experienced, both as a youngster and with the Brexit process, and that they felt helpless they could not do more to help.
“They sent on a very thoughtful donation, which I appreciate very much.
“I would like to reach out to that person to thank them for their very kind actions.”
Ms Jendrycha was sent acknowledgement of her settled status after Dundee West MP Chris Law raised her plight in Parliament and we published her story.
Mr Law said the experience was “bittersweet” and while incredibly pleased Ms Jendrycha’s ordeal had come to a positive end, warned there could be others forgotten about in the “scandal”.
Irena added she felt sad at having to go through what she did and hoped others would not, after sharing her tale.
She said: “I am, of course, pleased it is all over but, at the end of the day, why has this had to happen?
“If it hadn’t been for Brexit, then this would never have occurred. I and others like me would not have had to go through this.
“I thank God this whole thing has been sorted. I have been granted indefinite leave to remain here in the UK, with no time limit and settled status.”
Fears of a second ‘Windrush’
Chris Law said: “Naturally this will come with some relief for Irena; however, it’s bittersweet, as no one should have to relive the horrors that Irena has experienced to be recognised by the UK Government as having a right to live here in Scotland.
“One week ago the Lords published a report showing that less than 2% of applications were from (people) over 65 years of age.
“I fear many more like Irena have either been unable or unaware that they needed to apply and have lived here for decades, assuming quite rightly that Scotland is their home.
“The UK Government’s ‘hostile environment’ means that it’s likely this is going to be yet another Windrush scandal that will unfold.
“Scotland has always prided itself on being an open and welcoming country and it’s time we had our own devolved immigration system tailored to Scotland’s needs.”
Settled status granted
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “If someone has applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by the June 30 deadline, but has not had a decision yet, their rights are protected until their application is decided. That is the law.
“We have been in contact with Ms Jendrycha and she has since been granted settled status.”