TOPICS Online Magazine

What's in a Name?

It's International

Home Page

Yara Berg
Photo: S. Peters
When I was born, my father decided I had to have a Brazilian name because Brazil was the country he adopted and where he got married and started a family.


How I Got My Name

Yara Berg from Brazil

My father was an eighteen year-old young man when he emigrated from the Portuguese Madeira Island to Brazil, full of dreams and hope about the former Portuguese colony in the New World.

His first years in Brazil weren’t so easy as he had expected. It was during the Second World War and although Brazil was far from the war scenario, recession was also experienced there. Because of that he was full of joy when he managed to get his first job as a traveling salesman.

Traveling all over the big country my father met my mother in a small town in the North West shortly after the end of the war. Despite of the common language, he was received with skepticism by my mother’s family. My grandfather needed to know more about the strange foreigner before allowing him to date his daughter. With his good manners and his autodidactic education he won my grandfather’s confidence.

After my parents got married they had two children: my brother and myself. When my brother was born he was named Antonio Augusto, a very European name. So when I was born, my father decided that his second child had to have a Brazilian name because Brazil was the country he adopted and where he got married and started a family. My mother was considering giving me a double name after my two grandmothers that would be Leonor Sofia, but my father wouldn’t easily change his mind, so my mother gave in. This is how I became Yara, a Brazilian Indian name.

In a Brazilian Indian legend Yara was the Goddess of the River. She was a mermaid who came to seduce the young Indians at the edge of the rivers. As they tried to reach her, they sometimes drowned.

In spite of the tragic aspects of the Yara legend, it fascinated me and I was always proud of my name. The name wasn’t common and neither uncommon. It was well accepted and considered beautiful for many Brazilians. I liked my name for the reason that it was short and sounded nicely. I was very thankful for my father’s choice because a name is a very important part of our identity. I was happy with my name and I was happy with myself.

Many years later I married a Norwegian who was temporarily working in Brazil, and I moved to Norway when his company finished its contract in Brazil. It was my turn to experienced to be an immigrant as my father did before, but unlike him I went to a country with a completely different language.

I will never forget how strange and dissonant my name sounded for the Norwegians. They couldn’t pronounce it properly and they passed me a feeling of discomfort. Fortunately they were curious and many of them would ask me what my name meant and I would tell them the beautiful legend of Yara and they seemed as fascinated as I was when I heard its meaning. In that way I could recover part of my dignity and my self-confidence. The acceptance of my name was one of many aspects I had to struggle with when I immigrated to Norway.

Return to: What's In a Name? | It's International | Home Page

TOPICS Online Magazine - ©1997-2008 - Sandy and Thomas Peters -