On the 13th of May 2016, European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) organised a conference entitled “The Spelling of Names and Surnames – Challenges and Decisions” concerning the issue of original spelling of names. Ewelina Baliko, attorney’s assistant, who represents families fighting in courts for the right to the original spelling of names and surnames, presented the problems of families struggling with the variant spelling of surnames.
The majority of clients are Lithuanian women who married a foreigner. In accordance with the laws that are currently in force in Lithuania, they cannot take their man’s surname if it has letters “w”, “x” or “q” in it – the spelling of the names is changed by the authorities. Lithuanian institutions sometimes refuse to extend the documents already issued and force to change the registered name of surname, which is even more absurd situation.
The participants of the conference were able to hear out the people fighting for their rights in person. Kristina Weston, a wife of a New Zealander, is struggling with inconveniences all the time, she has to prove constantly that she is her husband’s wife and the variant spelling of their surname results from the Lithuanian law regulations. Roman Gorecki-Mickiewicz, great-great grandson of the famous poet, fights for the right to a passport with letters “x” and “w” for his daughter. Whereas Łukasz Wardyn shared with the participants his own story about how he was fighting for the original spelling of names for eight years.
EFHR thanks the representants of Lithuanian World Community and the National Commission of Lithuanian Language, that had not only come to the conference, but supported the idea of original spelling of names. We would also like to thank the Mayor of Vilnius for organising a room for the event.