New Americans sworn in at Strawbery Banke
It was a long journey for Amela Rustemovic from Bosnia-Herzegovina to New Hampshire, but on Wednesday, the Manchester resident said she finally feels a sense of belonging after being sworn in as a United States citizen during a special naturalization ceremony at Strawbery Banke Museum. (Gretyl Macalaster)
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PORTSMOUTH — Amela Rustemovic of Manchester had a lot to be emotional about Wednesday morning as she watched her 8-year-old daughter, Anita Sefer, lead about 200 people in the Pledge of Allegiance on the grounds of Strawbery Banke Museum.
Exactly 101 of those people, including Rustemovic, had just been sworn in as United States citizens.
Rustemovic's journey to New Hampshire began when she was 13-years-old and her family, including her parents and two brothers, fled from the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
They stayed in Germany for five years and then came to the United States.
Rustemovic said it was a lot of work over the next 14 years that led to her gaining her citizenship on Wednesday.
It is the fifth year in a row the special naturalization ceremony has been held at Strawbery Banke Museum.
The 101 new citizens hail from 34 different countries.
As he does every year, Gov. John Lynch participated in the ceremony and thanked the new citizens. “Your desire and pursuit of citizenship reminds all of us what it is to be an American,” Lynch said.
Lynch said the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness might have seemed radical at the time of the Declaration of Independence, but are anything but radical now.
“Because of America, the world now views these rights as basic elements of the human condition,” Lynch said.
Portsmouth Mayor Eric Spear paid a similar debt of gratitude to the citizens.
“It makes me renew my allegiance and renew my appreciation for citizenship in America,” Spear said.
The naturalization ceremony first began in 1997 when the Shapiro House was opened, but had a brief hiatus after 9/11.
Strawbery Banke has always been a neighborhood of newcomers, the museum's president, Larry Yerdon, said, so it is only fitting the ceremony is held on the museum's grounds.
“Every time I'm here, I think, 'this was just handed to me. I was just born here,' and these people worked and sacrificed to get this. It's a real gift,” Yerdon said.
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