Today’s story is about a woman who’s birth name is similar but different. *As Alina is my granddaughter’s name, I decided to use her name to disguise the original story (otherwise it is as told). I don’t think we have to make things so hard on immigrants who’s adoption has saddled them with issues like this.
I was adopted at 8 months old through Kids First. My adoptive parents (both Americans) falsified documents and changed my given birth name of *Alina, when they brought me to the US. The only thing they had applied for at the time was a Social Security Card, which was given out in the name my adoptive parents wanted to call me. The US government officials accepted this name, regardless of all of my Russian documentation showing my name as *Alina. My adoptive parents chose to change my name, so I “fit in better” and so people wouldn’t know I was a foreigner.
My adoptive parents were also very open and honest with me about my adoption and my name change, they never hid any details from me or dodged my questions. My whole upbringing though I never liked the name they gave me. It felt fake, misleading, like a false identity, just full-on imposter syndrome. I had asked my adoptive parents on multiple occasions to change my name back to my birth name and they refused every time.
When I turned 15, my world got flipped upside down when I found out I wasn’t actually a citizen of the US. It wasn’t until I was trying to obtain a drivers permit that we found out my adoptive parents had messed up big time (this is unfortunately not uncommon for an immigrant adoptee to experience). Through the very lengthy and expensive process, that I mostly financed on my own, I had an opportunity to change my name back to *Alina for good. Yet my adoptive parents still refused. I tried to explain to them all of my feelings about the situation but they didn’t care. They said I could deal with it when I was 18.
The naturalization process took me almost 4 years, and after a certain point, I was no longer able to change my name. And so, unfortunately at 19 years old I had to swear in as a citizen with this false identity. By this point, I had been going by *Alina at school, work, and in my personal life, but I had to constantly explain my situation to people about the issues with my name and essentially trauma dump on everyone. I am so sick of explaining myself. I am trying now that I am 22 years old to finally get my name back. It is the only thing I have from my culture, my mother, and my home. I have hit quite a road block in the process and due to living in a small town no one seems to have the expertise to help me. They have no idea what to do with an immigrant.
I currently do have full citizenship here in the US. My documents include my naturalization certificate, expired Russian Passport, Russian Birth Certificate, Official Translations, Delayed American Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, and a Drivers License. I have also since gotten married but because of my citizenship documents and status I couldn’t even change my name then.
From my own research on my state’s website the process, it should be possible although lengthy and expensive. I have to have an attorney with me to plead my case to a judge as to why I am requesting the name change. Though I have spoken to quite a few attorneys in my area – every single one of them said they have no idea how to help me or else they want an excessive retainer fee to even look into it.
My current game plan is to create all of the required documentation needed and the requested forms, find an attorney willing to just to stand with me to plead my case, and go through the rest of the process on my own efforts. I sadly don’t understand law very well and I’m getting overwhelmed by the whole process. I have spoken with several clergy members in my state and none of them know how to help me either, since I am wanting to change both my first and last name, plus they don’t know how to get me new citizenship documents in my preferred name.
One recommendation that others may be able to us is – Gregory Luce, an attorney and the founder of LINK> Adoptee Rights Law Center.