18 naturalized as citizens in Wheeling

WHEELING — A small crowd of family members and friends smiled, cheered and waved American flags Friday morning at the Federal Courthouse in support of 18 people who became naturalized citizens.

People from all over the world — from Venezuela, Ghana, the Philippines and Israel, among others — came to the courthouse before U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp Jr. to take the oath of citizenship. Throughout the courtroom, people with smiling faces took selfies and photos of the courtroom before the proceedings, while a reception held afterwards had families taking several group photos with their certificates of citizenship.

Stamp opened with remarks that such hearings were his favorite to preside over and asked the new citizens to embrace their new home and civic duties.

“It’s a pleasure for this … court to share in such a great moment for you and your families,” Stamp said. “We celebrate with you the wonderful occasion of your new citizenship, and the benefits. There are, of course, also responsibilities as well, and I hope you’ll take these first weeks and months of citizenship to reflect upon and appreciate the responsibilities that go along with the benefits.”

Stamp suggested the new citizens take the time to study American history, to keep abreast of public events and, when possible, to vote.

Stamp pointed out that, with a few exceptions, most American citizens are the descendants of immigrants.

“As we discuss the issues of immigration, all of us who are American citizens must not forget that — except for Native Americans — each of us has an immigrant in our history.”

Providing welcoming remarks were Debi Smith, West Virginia State vice regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and Gary Timmons, past president of the George Washington Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Both spoke on the importance of immigration and the naturalization process.

Valeriya Gritsenko, formerly of Canada, said she came from Morgantown after living in America for the past seven years with her daughter, Sophia.

“I’ve lived in this country already for seven years,” she said. “My daughter was born here, so I’m very excited!”

Gritsenko said the naturalization process was a relatively painless one, although one that she did have to work toward.

“It was fairly straightforward — I applied for citizenship, there was an interview, I had studied for it, that was about it.”

Naturalized Friday were, along with their country of origin:

¯ Valeriya Gritsenko (Canada).

¯ Annabel Yan Murphy (Belgium).

¯ Patrick Dianjun Yao (Canada).

¯ Maria Dolores Contreras (Mexico).

¯ Leonel Medellin (Mexico).

¯ Victor Lvov (Israel).

¯ Natalia Lvov (Israel).

¯ Morina Resoylo Daugherty (Philippines).

¯ Adeniyi Waid Kolawole Bello (Nigeria).

¯ Daniel Parker Kwafo (Ghana).

¯ Sergiy Yakovenko (Canada).

¯ Li Liz Zheng (China).

¯ Hector Emilio Marcano Marin (Venezuela).

¯ Hossein Motabar (Iran).

¯ Luz Marina Vega Araya (Costa Rica).

¯ Mark Tseytlin (Russia).

¯ Oxana Tseytlin (Russia).