On the long list of Things I Would Change About Myself If I Could, my last name has always been right at the top.
Before you get concerned that this blog is going to alienate my entire family, calm down: donâ€™t confuse a disdain for my name with a disdain for my family. Iâ€™m extremely proud of my ancestors, whatever their ethnicity. And thought I never enjoyed the name, I love the people I share it with.
And itâ€™s a perfectly good name, after all. Iâ€™ve done some research on it. According to Ancestry.com, there are over 1,000 immigrants in U.S. history bearing the name "Jurkiewicz," most of them settling in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.Â I once found information online that it was a surname belonging to szlachta (noble) families in the Kingdom of Poland, but Iâ€™ve never been able to verify that (if you search long enough on the Internet, youâ€™ll always find some website assuring you that your family is, in fact, European royalty).
Though Iâ€™m a Milwaukee native whoâ€™s always eaten oplatki on Christmas Eve, I have never really identified with my Polish heritage. My Irish genes completely hijacked my sense of self, as Irish genes are notorious for doing. With a mother who gave me a Gaelic first name, sang "Galway Bay" to me every night, and always assured me that I would have been an Irish princess if the English hadnâ€™t taken our land and castle (perhaps a bit overdramatic, in retrospect) I never gave much thought to my Polishness.
And so my last name has always been an awkward appendage, and Iâ€™ve never quite known what to do with it. Weâ€™re a very strange fit, the Jurkiewicz and me.
Itâ€™s meant confusion ("Whoa. How do you say that?"), teasing ("You must be a jerk!") and worst of all, unfulfilled expectations. Sometimes youâ€™ll meet someone who knows exactly how to pronounce it, and they will tell me what a "good Polish name" it is. I am always at a loss for words, feeling somehow undeserving of a good Polish name (what with all those Irish lulla…Read more...