84-Year-old woman gets dying wish of American citizenship

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

SUN CITY, Ariz. -- The beeping of a hospital machine and quiet sentiments whispered in Polish are hardly what you would expect to hear during a naturalization ceremony.

Yet for 84-year-old Polish transplant Irena Bialowolska, the scene could not have been more perfect as she became an American citizen from her hospital bed at the Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City West.

A widow and former math and physics teacher, Bialowolska followed her daughter Barbra Bialowolska-Romaniuk from Poland to Canada in 1993 so Barbra could go to medical school. Irena became a Canadian citizen.

Three years later, Barbra moved to America with her children to become a doctor. Irena would travel back and forth between Canada and the United States to visit her family, who had all become American citizens.

In 2005, tired of the commuting, Irena moved to America and began the process of becoming a citizen.

“It was very important for her to be a part of it…to consider herself a citizen of America,” said Irena’s granddaughter Magdalena Fit.

Last month, Irena’s dreams of becoming a citizen were cast in doubt, when she was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. After a brutal round of chemo, she developed pneumonia and was put in intensive care.

Thursday afternoon, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services made a house call of sorts, bringing the naturalization ceremony to Irena’s bedside.

With the help of a translator, Irena was able to take her oath and become a citizen of the United State.

“I’m just overwhelmed with everything,” Barbra said. “I’m very, very happy.”

Although Irena struggles with English, her first words as an American were easy to understand.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said after she took the oath.