Couple refused permission to change their 'Russian-sounding' surname

Couple are refused permission to change ‘Russian-sounding’ surname despite receiving abuse for it since Ukraine war – and the fact it is similar to famous porn star’s name

  • Couple tried to force officials in a southwest German state to authorise change
  • The regional administrative court in Koblenz said their reasons were insufficient

A court in Germany has rejected a married couple’s request to legally change their Russian-sounding surname due to them getting mocked mercilessly on a daily basis since the start of the war in Ukraine.

The couple had sought to force officials in the German state of Rhineland Palatinate to authorise the change, claiming that they and their daughter had suffered too many ribbings because of their last name.

The judges also did not accept the couple’s argument that the name is reminiscent of a former Polish porn actress, believed to be 80s adult star Teresa Orlowski, 58, according to German newspaper Bild. 

The judges said that the performer had been out of business for too long and was therefore not well known enough, according to the publication. 

The regional administrative court in Koblenz did not provide the couple’s surname in line with German privacy rules.

The judges also did not accept the couple’s argument that the name is also reminiscent of a former Polish porn actress, believed to be 80s adult star Teresa Orlowski (pictured in a video for the German punk rock band Die Ärzte), 58, according to German newspaper Bild

The court said on Tuesday that judges dismissed the Germany-born couple’s request on the grounds that the reasons they gave for the change were insufficient.

‘The fact that a family name is of foreign origin or doesn’t sound German is in itself generally not an important reason for a name change,’ the court said in a statement.

It said the negative treatment the couple claimed to have experienced since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wasn’t serious enough to warrant the name change, noting that the family’s economic situation hadn’t been affected.

Business partners of the Bundeswehr official, who also runs ‘a trade in the field of air conditioning’, according to Bild, are said to have refused to cooperate with the name change. 

The couple can appeal the ruling. 

Last month, it was announced that Germany is planning to allow families to have double-barrelled surnames to relax the strict rules currently in place.

Berlin’s justice ministry has presented plans that would end the ban on conjoining surnames, codified in the 1990s to stop chains of names lengthening across generations.

Pictured: 80s adult star Teresa Orlowski (file photo). The judges said that the performer had been out of business for too long and was therefore not well known enough, according to the publication.

The only exception to the nation’s ban on twin surnames is for the spouse whose name is not taken on in matrimony.

They can add their maiden name to their married name with the use of a hyphen.

It means that women often end up having double-barrelled names while their husbands and children keep a single surname.

Lengthy names in Germany have at times come up against public mockery.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of the Christian Democratic Union from 2018 to 2021, had a surname so complex to pronounce that many Germans called her by her initials.

However, justice minister Marco Buschmann, of the liberal Free Democrats, said it was time for the rules to be liberalised to keep up with societal change.

In March, a petition was circulated calling on the Ukrainian government to officially change Russia’s name to ‘Muscovy,’ a term which originated in the 13th century and referred to large sections of modern-day northwestern Russia.

It represents a Ukrainian push to undermine what the Russians claim as their historic origin story. 

Senior Russian officials criticised the plan as being deliberately provocative.

The dispute has its roots in a historical dispute over whether Russia or Ukraine can claim to be the legitimate successor of Kyivan Rus – the first state of the Eastern Slavs, which converted to Christianity.

Zelensky responded to the petition by saying the issue needs careful cultural and historical consideration with regard to potential international legal consequences,  but said that the option still remained.

‘Taking into account the above, I appealed to the prime minister of Ukraine a request for its comprehensive processing, in particular with involvement [of] scientific institutions, and informing me and the author of the petition about the results,’ Zelensky said.

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