What’s In A Name?

Marijana Čuvalo
2 min readFeb 15, 2022

I was born in Canada in the ’70s. My Croatian parents decided on giving me the name: Marijana. When you hear it, in Croatian, it sounds like this. Probably not the way you said it to yourself, right?

Like many Canadians born to immigrant parents of that time, people changed my name to make their lives easier.

I’ve heard stories of people having their names completely changed. Lucky for me, the spelling remained the same, but the enunciation of my name, of the name my parents gave me, changed once I got to school.

I kept the spelling of my name. But when people said my name, I heard: MaryAnna.

I get it; you might be saying to yourself: Marijana, Mary-Anna. It’s not far off. True. But it’s not my name. It’s not even a nickname I agreed to. Others chose a name for me because they couldn’t roll their Rs.

I don’t recall who made the change. It seems like I always had the two versions, and with those two versions, two identities. Croatian Marijana. Canadian MaryAnna. It seems like I have been carrying around two versions of myself for decades. And not because I created them.

I recall one day while in my master's program in Austria, I was on the phone with my mother. We were speaking Croatian. One of my classmates overheard me speaking, and after the call, she said to me: I like listening to you speak in Croatian. You exude more passion and energy when you speak in Croatian.

That was a bit of a defining moment for me. It was the moment I consciously realized I lived in two very different worlds. And one of them did not always feel authentic.

Why am I going on about this?

Now that I am in Croatia, Croatian Marijana is taking top billing. And I love it!

This morning, as I walked out of my apartment building, I heard the tradesmen call my name: Marijana! And I smiled. Yesterday, while at the gym, the instructor called out my name: Marijana! And I smiled.

I always smile when I hear people say: Marijana. It warms my heart.

Maybe because it takes me back to being a child and hearing the two people I loved and trusted the most call out that name; maybe it’s because it was the first name I answered to, and that name formed my initial identity.

As I continue on this Adriatic Adventure, I am constantly taking note of the little things and how they make me feel. And this little thing, being called Marijana, makes me feel like I am home.

--

--

Marijana Čuvalo

Canadian Croatian living in Croatia/Writing about My Adriatic Adventure/ Read more about my adventures here: https://www.marijanacuvalo.com/