In my first name, Kseniya, the letter К isn’t silent. Here’s the phonetic transcription: [ˈksɛnʲija]. My last name, Oksamytna, is even trickier. Here’s the phonetic transcription: [oksɐˈmɨtna]. It contains a sound that doesn’t exist in English, Ы or [ɨ]. You might have heard it on TV in connection with Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Алексей НавальнЫй.
‘Oksamyt’ is Ukrainian for ‘velvet’. There’s a family legend about Cossack ancestors who wore velvet kaftans, but I’m not sure whether to believe it.
Some people ask: Why don’t I adopt an alias? Sure, I could have used my Starbucks name for academic writing. However, it would have been difficult to explain to the UK Home Office, which might cross-check things with my GoogleScholar profile before deciding on visa renewal. So the luxury of an alias isn’t available to me.
Some people ask: Why don’t I take my husband’s easy-to-pronounce Scandi last name? Sure, I would have solved half of my problems, but taking a husband’s last name seems like an outdated tradition. That’s why we didn’t marry in Switzerland, where before 2013 a woman couldn’t keep her last name – true story!