‘Half of my heart is bleeding’ — citizenship ceremony bittersweet for natives of Ukraine

“My family in Ukraine is really concerned with what is happening,” said Yuriy Kolodiychuk. “And they beg the whole world to help people, ordinary people in Ukraine, who are under this severe attack of crazy person Mr. Putin.”

SHARE ‘Half of my heart is bleeding’ — citizenship ceremony bittersweet for natives of Ukraine
Iryna Ivankiv (right) receives her citizenship documents during a naturalization ceremony at Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022 in Evanston, Ill. Iryna Ivankiv is from Kopychyntsi, Ukraine.

Iryna Ivankiv (right) receives her citizenship documents during a naturalization ceremony at Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Hand on her heart, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as a U.S. citizen, Iryna Ivankiv thought of her parents, hiding in a basement in Ukraine; of her nephew, a 20-year-old college student leaving his books to go to battle for his country; of bombs falling in her home city of Kopychyntsi.

“I am upset, and worried,” Ivankiv said. “All the time, I call them, I ask about situation.”

Ivankiv was among 499 people who became U.S. citizens on Friday in a naturalization ceremony at Northwestern University.

They came from 78 countries, including 10 people from Ukraine, for whom it was a complicated day.

There was happiness, but also worry, fear and pain, as they thought of their families and others suffering in their homeland, under assault by Russia.

Instead of waving an American flag, Ivankiv clutched a brooch — blue and yellow, like the Ukrainian flag.

”I see people smile, because it’s a happy time, and for me, it’s happy … but my family is in Ukraine,” Ivankiv, 45, who came to the U.S. four years ago, said. “I do what I can do here, but my heart and my soul with Ukrainian people.”

Yuriy Kolodiychuk from Ternopil, Ukraine, recites the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.

Yuriy Kolodiychuk from Ternopil, Ukraine, recites the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Yuriy Kolodiychuk, who moved from Ukraine to the U.S. 16 years ago, also became a U.S. citizen Friday.

“I’m very happy that I can become a U.S. citizen today,” Kolodiychuk said. “It’s a very, very happy day. And at the same time, half of my heart is bleeding, because what is happening with my home? What might happen to my family? So it’s mixed emotions, very emotional day.”

Kolodiychuk lives with his wife in Chicago, and drives for Uber. His siblings and his son live in Ukraine.

“My family in Ukraine is really concerned with what is happening,” he said through a translator. “And they beg the whole world to help people, ordinary people in Ukraine who are under this severe attack, of crazy person Mr. Putin. This attack is something that should never happen in today’s world. ... My family is in shock that this happened.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sunil Harjani officially swore in and welcomed the new citizens at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.

“You have chosen to give up your relationship with your home countries,” he said. “You’ve chosen America as a place to live. It’s a place to make your home, a place for you to find your possibilities and your opportunities. … This kind of moment only happens once in your life.”

U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer speaks to the new U.S. citizens at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.

U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer speaks to the new U.S. citizens at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer acknowledged the Ukrainians present during the ceremony.

“Remember too, as you take this step today, that becoming an American does not mean that you have to leave your native culture behind,” Pallmeyer said.

“And for some of you, today’s news from Ukraine is most troubling. Of course, you will continue to love and care for your native lands. We hope you will do so.”

Pallmeyer also discussed Ukraine with reporters afterward.

“We’re in a moment in history where you wake every morning shuddering to hear what the news is going to be,” Pallmeyer said. “And in a context like that, it’s so encouraging to see nearly 500 people who say, ‘I want to be a part of that, I want to be a citizen. I want to join you in this effort.’I think about some of the struggles these people have faced, including obviously people from parts of the world right now that are under siege, and I think to honor their commitment and their accomplishment just gives me great joy.”

Vasyl Shovgenyuk, 25, said he is still processing the events in his home country. He came to the U.S. six years ago, and says the country has afforded him great opportunities. But on his mind today were his two older brothers, who fight in the Ukrainian army.

Vasyl Shovgenyuk from Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine has two brothers back home, fighting in the Ukrainian army.

Vasyl Shovgenyuk from Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine has two brothers back home, fighting in the Ukrainian army.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. The first night when it happened, I didn’t sleep all the night, because I was on the call with my family. And I didn’t believe and it’s like, I’m gonna to wake up … It’s like a dream and I didn’t believe it,” Shovgenyuk said.

“It’s impossible. I want to help them. In this moment, I’m very happy for me, but I cannot believe it.”

Hundreds of newly naturalized citizens line up to receive their citizenship papers at Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday.

Hundreds of newly naturalized citizens line up to receive their citizenship papers at Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The Latest
The Illinois law requires all firearms, including 3D printed guns, to have serial numbers. Ghost guns are largely untraceable because they lack such identifying numbers.
Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.
Superimpose a map of tree coverage on the pollution map. Trees use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. They also remove pollution out of the air.
A new state law kicks Jan. 1 requiring lead service lines be replaced with non-lead lines when a meter is installed. That increases the cost of the meter installation, so the city is rushing to install as many meters as possible by year’s end.
The former Bears running back is dealing with his latest setback, a ruptured Achilles tendon.