(June 3, 2017)
HARTFORD, CT – The Polish National Home of Hartford was proud to host 55 immigrants from 28 countries as they were sworn in to become new American citizens on Friday afternoon, filling its historic Chopin Ballroom with excited families and honored guests. The ceremony was the culmination of months of careful preparation and is the start of an ongoing partnership with the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services Hartford Field Office, which administers the Oath of Allegiance to more than 10,000 new citizens every year.
Speaking to the Hartford Courant, USCIS representative Erika Taylor said of the federal agency’s interest in holding large naturalization ceremonies at the Polish National Home of Hartford, “We picked the Polish Home because it really is the core of Hartford.”
The ceremony brought together an exciting team of stakeholders and participants in Hartford’s continued revival. The district office of Senator Chris Murphy, a close neighbor of the Polish National Home in the newly-restored Colt Building, was instrumental in forming this important partnership, bringing together federal immigration officials and the PNH, a 100-year-old nonprofit organization founded by first-generation Polish immigrants to serve the immigrant communities of Hartford. The Hartford Underground, a thriving swing dance society run by young Hartford residents, and which holds its popular dances in the PNH’s historic Art Deco Chopin Ballroom every Thursday night, provided volunteers to assist with the preparations for this important ceremony. And the Honorable Luke Bronin, Mayor of the City of Hartford, inspired all assembled for the ceremony with a powerful keynote speech.
Ms. Asha Lassen, President of the Hartford Polish Saturday School and the Event & Marketing Coordinator of the Polish National Home, served as the master of ceremonies, setting the tone for this moving event as she spoke to the 55 candidates for citizenship. “I once sat where you are sitting. I once felt what you are feeling now.” She told those gathered of her own incredible journey as a 15-year-old, from the oppression, violence, and political turmoil of Gdansk in the Communist era, to the land of opportunity. Ms. Lassen said that her story was reflective of so many of the gathered candidates’ own stories: their hard work overcoming adversity, and their long journey to find, what she called, “Hope, and home, at last.”
President of the PNH Robert Kwasnicki formally welcomed the assembly in several languages, and congratulatory remarks were made by Poland’s new Honorary Consul to the State of Connecticut, Darek Barcikowski. Honorary Consul Barcikowski encouraged the candidates for citizenship to become active participants in American democracy: voting, volunteering, and even running for political office.
Congressman John Larson’s district aide Gladys Mercado, who specializes in immigration issues, urged those gathered to reach out to her if they ever have need of assistance and gave each of the new citizens a letter of congratulations from the Congressman.
As he administered the Oath of Allegiance to the new citizens, Federal Judge Anthony Covello praised the American education system, and urged those gathered to continue their studies with a lifelong dedication to learning. Judge Covello said that he hoped that even as the new citizens endeavored to gain deeper mastery over the English language, they would teach their home country’s language to their children and grandchildren as a proud cultural tradition.
The honored keynote speaker of the ceremony, longtime PNH supporter Mayor Luke Bronin, continued on that theme, saying that the love of one’s native culture and the ideals of America are intertwined. Mayor Bronin harkened back to the country’s history of difficult journeys, from impoverished Irish and Chinese laborers to enslaved Africans to Jews fleeing religious persecution, and noted that in a contemporary United States home to multitudes from every continent, “America has never been more American.” Mayor Bronin said that it was the devotion to liberty that made one an American.
As Ms. Lassen brought the ceremony to a close, she urged them and their families to always feel welcome at the Polish National Home. In this historic gathering place built by and for newcomers to this great country, Ms. Lassen spoke with pride to her new fellow citizens: “This is now your Home.”