NDSU professor, Ukraine native shares her story in welcoming 70 new Americans
Born in 1981, Anastassiya Andrianova and her family visited America after the fall of the Soviet Union. “I was the youngest in the family, and when we went back I never felt that I belonged in Ukraine,” she said.
FARGO — Anastassiya Andrianova’s dream of becoming an American citizen took more than a decade to attain. Paperwork, missing information from her homeland in Ukraine, and then a failed marriage stalled the process.
On the day she did become a citizen, June 6, 2017, she was one of the few who raised her hand saying she had lived in the United States for more than 25 years.
An English professor, who's president of the Faculty Senate at North Dakota State University, Andrianova broke down in tears when telling her story to 70 new Americans who had just finished reciting their Oath of Allegiance on Tuesday, March 21, at the Louise S. Barry Auditorium in NDSU's Barry Hall in downtown Fargo.
Born in 1981, Andrianova and her family visited America after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“I was the youngest in the family, and when we went back I never felt that I belonged in Ukraine,” Andrianova said.
She returned in 1996 and decided to stay on a student visa. She ate rice and beans from a can while working through college, and eventually married, obtaining permanent residency.
“But one piece of clearance was always missing and it went on for many, many years,” Andrianova said.
After her marriage ended, she lost her permanent residency.
“Once, I was threatened to go back home. I thought I would never become a citizen in the country where I had spent more than half my life,” Andrianova said.
Years later, she remarried, and now has a daughter. Previously a professor in New York City, Andrianova moved to Fargo in 2014 during a polar vortex. “Which was no less stressful of a situation,” she said, jokingly.
Addressing the new Americans from countries like Bangladesh, Bosnia Herzegovina, Cameroon, Canada, El Salvador, Germany, Iraq, Liberia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Vietnam, she encouraged them, saying with their new status came great responsibility.
“At times I feel like I am the only Ukrainian American in Fargo, and that I am the only one who must speak up on behalf of my country," Andrianova said of her homeland that's mired in a bitter war with Russia. "So while you may feel like you are alone, you will find your community. I cannot tell you you won’t face difficulties and not just the long winters.”
“As U.S. citizens you are obligated to participate in democracy,” she said. “But don’t leave your heritage and home country behind.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal presided over Tuesday's ceremony and agreed with Andrianova, saying that everyone present was responsible for following the law, bearing arms for the country if required, and agreeing to stand up for the principles of the Constitution.
“Promise loyalty to the United States, but that does not mean to ban the heritage of the country from which you came. Help those of us not familiar with your culture learn about your culture,” Senechal said.
“I know each of us sitting here today has some citizenship story. Each of you are becoming citizens because of personal choices that you have made. In a few minutes your citizenship will be no different than mine. You will have the same rights that I do, you will have the same responsibilities that I do,” Senechal said before the new citizens took the Oath of Allegiance.
Toward the end of the ceremony, a video message was played from President Joe Biden, who thanked the new citizens for choosing America.
“You all have one thing in common. Courage. The courage to leave your home, your lives, your loved ones, and come to a nation that has the idea that everyone is created equal,” Biden said in the video.
After the ceremony, a new citizen named Yana Williams, also from Ukraine, came up to introduce herself to Andrianova.
Williams came from an agricultural university to study on a farm in Jamestown, North Dakota, about 10 years ago. She fell in love, now has three children, and was beaming when asked how she felt about becoming an American citizen.
“It feels good. It was long, not difficult. It was just a long process,” said Williams, one hand clutching her citizenship paperwork.
Both Andrianova and Williams have family members who remain in Ukraine.
“They live day by day. They don’t want to leave, and the men can’t leave. It’s their country, it’s their land,” Williams said.
Andrianova’s parents won’t leave their home in Kiev either. Some other family members fled to western Ukraine when the war broke out.
Since becoming a citizen, Andrianova said she's become more active in the community. She also writes opinion pieces that are published by The Forum.
In February, Andrianova raised awareness about the war in Ukraine by convincing Fargo's leaders to light up City Hall in the country’s colors, blue and gold.
“Since the birth of my child, I feel the moral obligation to stand up for what I believe in,” Andrianova said.