Ahoj!  Jmenuji se Angelika

or

Hi, my name is Angelika

with a “k” in the space 

people believe a “c” belongs. 

One foreign letter 

and my family members 

were slaughtered 

by the tongue of America’s elders. “Angeleeka?”  

“Can I just call you Angie?” 

Being compliant to mispronunciation 

is ingrained in my DNA. 

Immigration officers 

filled out my great

great 

grandmother’s paperwork 

for her, 

writing down what they heard, 

instead

of what she said. 

“My name is Anna Hurnyi Tarras.” 

“Please repeat.” 

“Anna Hurnyi Tarras.” 

The accent marks 

were scraped from a 42 letter alphabet, making it only 26 

and easier to chew up 

and digest. 

They write “Anna Hurni Tarris” 

and in a single ink spill, 

her parents become a figment 

of the imagination, 

her homeland exists 

only in memories 

and the lines of her hands. 

She and her husband

sent west 

to stop speaking in mother tongue 

and be killed in a mining accident.

Her daughter becomes 

an English teacher, 

trying to erase the obvious 

alien from her teeth. 

Eduarta Theresa Tarras becomes 

Irma Normington 

and tries to teach her children 

how to sound less foreign. 

All I have left of my family is that “k” 

in a c’s space. 

That “k” is my grandmother’s babushka wrapped around braided hair 

and the way she couldn’t remember 

the word for “bellybutton” 

even when her mom begged. 

It is fresh cooked pierogie for dinner 

and fried cherigi for dessert. 

That “k” is every misspelled tombstone 

in a now ghost-town cemetery 

in Wyoming. 

Dobre den! Jmenuji se, Angelika. 

It was not a quirky addition 

thought up by my bleeding mother.

It was the last puff of smoke 

from the train across a new country, 

the remnants of the old country 

split in two. 

It wasn’t a mistake. 

For every time I responded 

to the wrong name, 

there was a day on Ellis Island to match. 

For every shortened variation 

of my too many letters, 

there is one of my family member’s untraceable boarding pass. 

For every syllable in 

Angelika, 

there is one of my grandparent’s obituaries with the names updated 

to be more palatable. 

Moje krásná dcera, Anastasia:

Or 

My beautiful daughter, Anastasia: 

It was not a mistake. 

When they call you 

Anastasia, 

correct them. 

When they laugh, 

“I’ll never be able to say that right.” 

Tell them, 

“I’ll repeat it until you can.” 

When they ask 

“Why is it pronounced that way?” 

say, “Because that is my name. 

Moje matka”

or 

“My mother gifted it to me 

that way 

on purpose.” 

Say, “I honor 

Anna Hurnyi Tarras 

and Eduarta Theresa Tarras 

and Maria Dlugos 

and the bones of names 

that never needed to be softer

and when they ask 

if they can call you 

“Anna” 

instead, 

say

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“If I wanted you to change my name, 

I would have asked.” 

Angelika Brewer is an award-winning writer and poet laureate of Ogden, Utah

This story appears in the June issue of Deseret Magazine. Learn more about how to subscribe.

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