Immigrants, the oath, the future

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Check the faces from this 1925 St. Paul oath of citizenship photo, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

You might see some relatives.

There’s a naturalized American in my family.

The ceremony for my relative took place 25 years ago at the Roy Wilkins auditorium in downtown St. Paul.

A couple hundred folks, a true rainbow, people from around the world took the oath.

The ceremony was overseen by the now-retired Judge James Rosenbaum who was a newly minted federal judge and obviously moved by the experience.

Since then I’ve nurtured a healthy respect for naturalized Americans which has grown over the years.

I’ve done stories on folks from Togo, Somalia, Laos and elsewhere, all immigrants with the status of refugee which means they’ve been granted admission to this country because the government has accepted their argument that there lives are at peril in their homeland.

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My newest acquaintance in this realm is Olga Zoltai of St. Paul. She and her family escaped their homeland of German-occupied Hungary just as World War II was ending and the Nazi forces were crumbling in the face of the Soviet Red Army’s advance.

Fast forward a quarter century to 1967 and Zoltai took her oath of citizenship in St. Paul where the family had resettled when her husband landed a faculty position at the University of Minnesota.

Zoltai, not exactly lacking for energy, volunteered at the International Institute of Minnesota then became a caseworker and was on deck as tens of thousands of refugees from Southeast Asia flowed into Minnesota in search of new home.

Zoltai helped resettle thousands of them including the very first Hmong family.

She’ll be honored for her work Friday, March 2nd, appropriately at a naturalization ceremony at the University of Minnesota.

And then it’s off to India for two weeks to take a look at the plight of that country’s impoverished girls to she how she can help.

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