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Uliana Taylor couldn’t stop smiling.

As one of 22 people to take the oath of allegiance in a naturalization ceremony Monday inside the Capitol building at Colonial Williamsburg, Taylor was rarely without an ear to ear grin. Her smile was shared among others who also became citizens. from Ukraine eight years ago and now lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and two children said she had been looking forward to becoming a citizen.

“I am trying to have my future here,” Taylor said. “I want to stay here, I want to live here, I want to die here. I love this country.”

Taylor said she did not expect such a beautiful ceremony and vowed to return to visit Colonial Williamsburg. District Judge Arenda Allen administered the oath of allegiance and told the new citizens this country is “humbled and privileged now that you’re one of us.”

“You are now a part of this sacred promise,” Allen told the new citizens. “You are a part of this country, too.”

Beth Kelly, the co executive director of the education, research and historical interpretation for Colonial Williamsburg, provided historical context for what the new citizens experienced in the ceremony.

Kelly told the new citizens about the First Continental Congress delegates from 13 independent colonies meeting for the first time in 1774 to discuss a shared displeasure with Great Britain.

She noted that after a chaotic first day of meetings, Virginia’s Patrick Henry reminded the delegates why they were there.

Henry’s speech to the delegation started quietly and built to a crescendo, until he went silent. Then, Kelly paraphrased Henry: “We came here as Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, New Englanders, Georgians, but those distinctions that held us thus are no longer. We are now Americans.”

“And it was the first time that they thought of themselves first as Americans, rather than as Virginians or New Yorkers,” Kelly said. “And it was the first time that they understood what that really meant. He laid it all out. It’s about rights and it’s about protecting our rights, our inalienable rights.

“Today, we walked into this chamber representing distinctions of our origins of birth. Today, we will all leave this chamber as Americans.”

It’s exactly as Varvara Zherebtsova wanted.

“I go to school here, so I’m planning on having a future career here, and kids someday,” Zherebtsova said. “I love this country. I want to live here. I want to stay here. I love it.”

Russia (two), Ukraine, Poland, Bulgaria, Philippines (two), China, Vietnam (three), Thailand, India, New Zealand, Egypt (two), Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Uruguay, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and United Kingdom.
timberland steel toe Colonial Williamsburg hosts naturalization ceremony