Citizenship ceremony brings mixed emotions for Kansan from Ukraine

Iuliia Orellana, one of the 160 new U.S. citizens celebrated in a Feb. 25 ceremony in Wichita,...
Iuliia Orellana, one of the 160 new U.S. citizens celebrated in a Feb. 25 ceremony in Wichita, Kan., was raised in Ukraine.(KWCH)
Published: Feb. 25, 2022 at 5:29 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A U.S. citizenship ceremony Friday in Wichita brought mixed emotions for some in the crowd representing 37 countries. One of the 160 new U.S. citizens was raised in Ukraine. While the ceremony was celebratory, the accomplishment is bittersweet for Iuliia Orellana with concerns for friends and family in her home country.

Orellana said conflicts between Ukraine and Russia have been felt in her hometown for years. But this week, those signs of conflict escalated beyond her belief.

Friday at the citizenship ceremony in Wichita, Orellana was the sole Ukrainian in the crowd of naturalized citizens.

It was a day of celebration for 161 new Americans who live in Kansas.

“I was very excited about this day. I was waiting for a few years for it, but it doesn’t feel like celebration time now with everything that’s happening back in my country, it actually feels bad,” she said. “I feel like I’m abandoning my country like in such a hard moment, so very mixed and complicated feelings. “I’m happy that I’m in the safety but I feel very bad and scared for the people who stayed there.”

Orellana moved to the U.S. after marrying an Air Force staff sergeant. She left behind family living in Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine close to the Russian border. It’s a city that hasn’t been controlled by Ukraine since she left the country.

“The war in Donetsk started eight years ago, supported by Russia,” she said. “So, I’m quite used to see pictures of the destruction shells and bombs and tanks on the street. What’s happening now is completely different level. I could not even imagine something like this is possible. It’s very scary to open and see the news.”

The 30-year-old mother from eastern Ukraine said she’s in constant contact with her family. She said they’re not trying to leave the country but are scared.

“Ukraine was a nice, peaceful country and nobody was expecting that. People just want peace and (to) live their normal lives,” Orellana said. “Most of the people in Russia, they want peace too. I have relatives there. I have friends here who cam from Russia. All of them are scared and terrified (of) what’s going on. They want peace too.”

Orellana said she’s glad to officially be an American and continues to hope for peace in her home country. She said she hopes that by the time her young son grows up, “this conflict with shells, bombs, soldiers and tanks will be in the past.”

Copyright 2022 KWCH. All rights reserved.