"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty ..."
Thirty voices, in diverse tones and accents reflecting the heritage of 17 nations, rose as one in reciting the Oath of Allegiance to the United States at a naturalization ceremony conducted Thursday at the Fairfield Museum and History Center.
One of those voices belonged to West Hartford resident Deborah Brennen, a native of Canada who moved to the U.S. in 2000.
"This is where I live now, this is where I intend to stay," Brennen said. She said gave up her Canadian citizenship because she wanted to have the right to vote in the U.S. "That's very important to me," Brennen said. "I feel like this is the country I'm embracing right now."
Emilia Dobrydney came here from Poland in 1992, and the mother of two young daughters said she wanted to become a citizen for her family.
"I was crying," she said, when it came time to stand up, raise her right hand and repeat the oath led by federal Judge Stefan Underhill. "I got very emotional. It was a big deal."
Now a Trumbull resident, Dobrydney said it is a privilege to officially become a citizen of the United States.
"There is no happier occasion in the district court than to see new citizens made," Underhill said. "It's a very exciting moment."
It was a moment that Underhill urged the new citizens to savor. "This is a special moment, so take a photo; remember this moment, and celebrate this day as you would a birthday or anniversary."
After taking the oath in unison, the new citizens stood while the National Anthem was sung by Lucia Palmeiri and then recited the Pledge of Allegiance, led by the color guard from the Lt. Owen Fish Memorial, American Legion Post 143. Then, they were called, one by one, to come forward to receive their certificates of citizenship. Almost all had a families or friends there to take a photo, or two, and Underhill did not rush through the process. In fact, he stayed after the official ceremony was over for more photos with anyone who wanted one.
Why become a U.S. citizen?
"For the freedom, for your rights to vote," said Deborah Williams, who now lives in Bridgeport, but is from Dominca. "It was a good feel, a great feeling."
First Selectman Michael Tetreau noted that Fairfield, celebrating its 375th anniversary this year, was established by its earliest colonists on land right outside the museum grounds near Town Hall Green. "It was those first citizens that helped build this country," Tetreau said. "You now join that team. You now help take up that struggle to keep this country safe for future generations.
Fairfield resident Ellen Belitzky attended the ceremony to see Tatiana Coelho, who came to the U.S. from Brazil 10 years ago, take her oath. While in the U.S., Coelho met and fell in love with a Brazilian-American, who she eventually marrying. Her husband could not be there Thursday, so Belitzky came to record the moment.
"This is a great country, which gave me the opportunity to come here," Coelho said. "It's a pleasure for me to become a U.S. citizen. This is huge to me. It's an amazing country; it's a safe country."
Belitzky said the former au pair worked hard to make her American dream come true. "She got a degree, she's contributing to the community. It's not just a piece of paper," she said.
Before the official ceremony was over, Ethan Enzer, the section chief with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, had important advice for the new citizens: "Make sure you contact the Secretary of the State's office for information on how to register to vote. It is one of the privileges you are now allowed."