Tomas

"I think that myself and my predecessors and my successors carry the 'migratory identity'. The only reason I was born in Argentina is because my parents were Jewish."

My name is Tomas Rosenbaum, I’m sixty seven years of age and I’m a urological surgeon. I have been in the UK for forty odd years. 

I was born in Buenos Aires. My parents had moved to Argentina from Germany just before the war. But, in the 1970s just after I qualified as a doctor, the political climate in Argentina became very turbulent and I apparently became a target. So, I ended up settling in the UK, which fascinated me both because of its history and culture and because of the National Health Service.

Essentially I'm an Argentinean national, of Jewish background. I think a lot of things in me are marked by the fact that my parents were immigrants, forced immigrants (because they were Jewish) and by the fact that I migrated, also more or less in a forced way. I think that myself and my predecessors and my successors carry the 'migratory identity'. The only reason I was born in Argentina is because my parents were Jewish, otherwise they wouldn’t have left Germany. So that is, in a simple way, how I define my identity.

But, as it happens I have now also acquired British nationality. So, officially I’m also British. I definitely feel that the issue of identity has come to the foreground, particularly around the Brexit debate and outcome. I consider myself clearly an internationalist rather than a nationalist. I participated actively in the campaign against Brexit but I’m also a pragmatist: the reality is what we have. As such, the Englishness has wrapped itself very much in me. 

Leah (Tomas' daughter)

 "I very much see the NHS as my identity, probably more than my nationality."

My name is Leah Rosenbaum. I'm twenty seven years old, I work as a junior doctor in the NHS.

I think about identity a lot. I primarily identify myself as British, but the Argentinean side of my identity is incredibly important because ; I was brought up in a split house hold, so when I was with my dad I was very much immersed in the Argentine culture. So the Argentine side of things rubbed off on me in that we have quite an Argentinean pallet in what we eat and drink, there’s a lot of red meat, a lot of wine, there’s a lot of conversations over wine and barbeque and things like that. But then there is a very much Argentineans feel, it’s very open house, we very hospitable with lots of friends coming over,

I have to be honest and say I relate less to the Jewish side than I do to the Argentine side. And that’s because it played less of a part in my upbringing and the Argentinean side was always much more dominant and it’s much more obvious. However, I'm very aware that my grandparents and their parents were part of the atrocities that happened in the last century and I'm very aware that many of my family relate to it personally. I'm also aware that that’s what led to my Argentinean-ness. Because if they hadn’t left Germany I wouldn’t be Argentinean, I would be German British, or just German; or I wouldn’t exist, one of the three. 

I think my line of work helps me identify with being Argentinean because we have so many international workers in the NHS and everyone’s from somewhere else; no one’s British, so it helps a lot. It’s a culture where we’re all one together, so it almost forms a third part of your identity that surpasses national borders. In fact, I very much see the NHS as my identity, probably more than my nationality. It works much like a country in that there’s so many different bits of it and they all fit into each other they all finance or they don’t.

And it has a place for everyone in it and anytime you talk to other NHS workers, you instantly have a huge amount in common; you instantly understand each other. And that’s comparable to being brought up in the same city. 

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