Slovak: Her name is now Sokolov.


Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
She fell in love with a Russian and they are married. Her name is now Sokolov.

(The Tattooist of Auschwitz; Heather Morris)

If she were Russian (or Ukrainian for that matter), her name would be Sokolova. It looks though that Slovakian surnames also differ according to gender. So, would you be so kind as to tell me why her surname wouldn't change in this case? Does Sokolov sound too foreign to be able to go through a usual 'gender surname transformation', or is it done for legal purposes, or is there something else at play?

  • Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Hi SuprunP, the book was written by a New Zealand author, based on the story of one of the main characters, who told his story in person to the author. It's basically a good read for the generalist public, not an academic study or learned article, and according to the contents page it includes "an afterword from Gary Sokolov", presumably a relative of the lady, though that section isn't visible to me.

    Slovak surnames do, indeed, differ acording to gender, but it seems that the lady is/was living in the West, married to a Russian called Sokolov, and has a relative called Gary, so the whole nomenclature culture has shifted to what an English-speaking audience would expect, and who might simply be confused by name changes that don't have any parallel in English-speaking cultures. If the woman is/was called Sokolov but living in the West, she wouldn't introduce an authentic Slavic female name ending.

    A brief review of that book is quoted on the author's page here. The review is by a woman author ("Leah") who signs herself "Kaminsky" - obviously a masculine name ending. That's perfectly normal in English-speaking cultures among people who may have second-, third-, fourth-generation East European heritage but perhaps don't speak the language and may have lost much of their cultural heritage.
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    Senior Member
    I'd like to add, for curiosity, that after a long battle in the parliament some years ago, now it is possible for women not to use the ending -ová (or in general, the feminine form of the surname), if they do demand it. The main purpose for this legislative change was the possibility to use surnames of foreign origin (mostly Hungarian which are frequent in Slovakia) without -ová. Adding -ová they often sound forced and ungrammatical and do not respect the historical traditions.


    Senior Member
    I once made up a story about a family line which, repeatedly moving from the Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia to Russia and back for several generations, with some divorces and keeping the mother's surname in process, accumulated a considerable amount of -ov- in their surnames. :)