Manchester Union-Leader: 101 become U.S. citizens in ceremony at Strawbery Banke

Union-Leader: She referred to “this difficult and divisive time” and said that America has been through much worse — the Civil War, the Great Depression, the McCarthy hearings and tensions during the Vietnam War.

“We need to be reminded how resilient we have been as a people and a nation,” Clark said.

Manchester Union-Leader: 101 become U.S. citizens in ceremony at Strawbery Banke

By Kimberly Haas

PORTSMOUTH — Raymond Vaitkevichrus was jailed in Siberia after trying to escape to the United States in 1987.

On Tuesday, the former Lithuanian became an American citizen on his adopted country’s 241st birthday.

“To me, it’s life. It means everything to live with the good people around you,” Vaitkevichrus said after a naturalization ceremony at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth.

Vaitkevichrus explained that he and his friend were trying to flee the Soviet Union and were at the border when they got caught.

“They kept us in single cells,” Vaitkevichrus said. His friend lost his mind due to the treatment, Vaitkevichrus said.

In 1991, Vaitkevichrus made it to Illinois. Today, he lives in Amherst with his wife.

Vaitkevichrus joined 100 other people from 42 countries and five continents for an emotional ceremony.

Muna Chouhan and her mother, Pabitia Chouhan, live in Concord. They emigrated to America from Nepal six years ago.

“It is one of the most important things for us, today,” Muna Chouchan said. “I am so happy to be a citizen today. It’s a great day.”

Nasteho Mohamed, who moved to the United States from Kenya 13 years ago with her family, said Tuesday’s ceremony represented the end of a long journey, and marked the beginning of a new chapter in their lives.

“It’s a very proud moment,” Mohamed, of Manchester, said.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen welcomed the new citizens. She said immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a new business.

“Immigrants are a big reason why the United States has the most successful, dynamic economy on earth,” Shaheen said.

New Hampshire state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, was the ceremony’s keynote speaker.

She referred to “this difficult and divisive time” and said that America has been through much worse — the Civil War, the Great Depression, the McCarthy hearings and tensions during the Vietnam War.

“We need to be reminded how resilient we have been as a people and a nation,” Clark said.

New citizens and their families were invited to spend the afternoon at Strawbery Banke, where some of the nation’s first European colonists settled in the early 1600s.

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