ST. LOUIS – As United States citizenship hearings begin anew, a Russian immigrant thinks St. Louis immigrants are finally getting their chance to swear-in as US citizens again, after months of delays.
Sasha Kondratyeva was supposed to be sworn in as a US citizen in April. She says it scared her when her hearing was canceled because of the pandemic.
“It made me worried because after all of the stuff that I’ve done, I really just kind of wanted to get to the finish line,” she said.
“After submitting the application, paying for it—it’s pretty expensive—and then going through the tests like the American history the English and writing and all of this, this (swearing in ceremony) is the final point, the last thing I have to do.”
Kondratyeva came to St. Louis with her family when she was 13. She knew no English. She graduated from St. Pius X and SLU.
Now she has a full-time job in St. Louis in the health care industry. Her green card is enough to work, but she wanted more.
“It just meant solidifying everything and it meant truly becoming one of the American people, just feeling included,” she said. “It’s not like I didn’t feel included before, it’s just like everyone thought I was already American but I didn’t have that title. I didn’t have that validation.”
Kondratyeva was one of the first to be sworn in as the federal court restarted naturalization hearings last week.
Eastern District of Missouri Chief Judge Rodney Sippel was one of the judges swearing in new citizens.
“Candidly, it’s one of the few fun things federal judges do. Most people aren’t happy to see us,” he said. “It’s an extraordinary moment to encounter people as they finish their path to citizenship and hear their individual stories. The most compelling moment is when they sing the national anthem together. To hear the different voices and accents join together as Americans.”
Because of social distancing, Kondratyeva says she missed out on some of the regular traditions in these ceremonies – like having family with her and getting a picture with the judge. The courts have promised citizens can return here later to get those things they missed out on. Kondratyeva says her citizenship means so much to her that she’ll be back.
“I definitely would like to thank St. Louis,” she said. “It’s become my second home. I feel very comfortable here and I feel included. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”