The 24-year-old Naima Karoesna should actually be called Naima Kałużna. As a baby, Naima grew up in precarious circumstances. Therefore, when her upstairs neighbor handed Naima over as a baby to the police and youth services, Naima’s name was written down incorrectly. Now she wants to get her own surname back and change her first name, but that’s not that easy. “My name is important to my identity.”
“My name is part of my identity and my identity is very important to me,” says Naima. She is standing in front of her parental home in the Conradstraat. She doesn’t remember exactly where she lived. “I believe it was on the first floor.” The neighbor lived above her, if all goes well. “It’s strange to be standing here. Something happened here that has had a lot of influence on my life, but which I was not aware of.”
‘A better life’
Naima’s mother came to Amsterdam from Poland in the 1990s, together with her partner. “She was promised a better life here,” says Naima. It just wasn’t a better life. “I was later told that my mother was forced to work in prostitution. My mother was happy to have me, but the situation was not good.” When Naima was five months old, her mother had no time or space to take care of her. Her upstairs neighbor was therefore careful. “She eventually called the police and had to pass on my suspected name.”
The Polish name ‘Kałużna’ was passed on to the police as Karoesna and it was never changed again. They couldn’t check it either; Naima’s mother, who was in the Netherlands illegally, fled back to Poland when she heard that the police had visited.
Ultimately, Naima grew up in a foster family, but she did come into contact with her biological family later on. She has five half-sisters, all named Kałużna. “I am one of them and I can only wear the same last name with pride.” When asked if she doesn’t think it’s special that she is the only one called Karoesna, she replies: “More people ask that, but it doesn’t feel special to me. Karoesna means nothing. It’s a mistake that I want to have corrected.”
“He was not my biological father, but the man who forced my mother into prostitution”
You can’t just change a last name just like that. At the municipality it is only possible if it concerns a spelling error, but it informs Naima that in this case a birth certificate has been drawn up with the information that was known at the time. So it’s not a spelling error. Naima was referred to Justis, a department of the Ministry of Justice and Security. He said that you can only change your name for free if you are the victim of a crime committed by a family member with the same last name. There are also strict rules when changing your last name.
Naima will have to try with a lawyer to change her name. “So you have to fight for your name,” she says. “And it’s not cheap either, because you have to pay for the lawyer, for the name itself and for the documents that need to be amended. I think I’ve lost at least 3,000 to 4,000 euros.”
It will also be expensive, because it is not only about Naima’s last name, but also her first name. Naima wants to be called Monika. That’s her middle name. Her mother’s partner gave her this name. “They thought he was my biological father, but he wasn’t. He is probably the one who forced my mother into prostitution. I never felt connected to my name, even when I thought he was my father. That’s why I want to change it now.”
Naima has started a crowdfunding. “Hoping that people understand my story and want to support me. Maybe they want to help me so that I feel like myself again.”
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