BANGOR, Maine — Friday’s special at Angelo’s Pizzeria was the great big smiles worn by its owners.
Nikollaq Turlla, 40, and his, wife, Elisaveta Turlla, 33, both of Bangor, were grinning from ear to ear because they were two of 17 men and women from more than a dozen countries to become U.S. citizens Friday morning in a naturalization ceremony at U.S. District Court.
The owners of the local eatery on Hammond Street along with other immigrants raised their right hands and took the oath of citizenship. All promised to give up their allegiance to “any foreign prince, potentate or sovereignty” and promised to uphold the U.S. Constitution and defend their new country against its enemies, foreign and domestic.
After the brief ceremony, the Turllas posed for pictures with federal court officers, who are frequent customers. The couple has owned and operated Angelo’s Pizzeria in Bangor since moving to the city from their native Albania in 2000.
“I think after we saw what this country means, we are more than happy and ready to become Americans, to be part of this country,” Nikollaq Turlla said when asked why he decided to become a citizen. “We came here 10 years ago and didn’t speak much English, but received so much love and support from the community.”
Albania is a nation about the size of Maryland, according to The World Factbook, published online by the Central Intelligence Agency. It is in southern Europe across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. Albania is bordered by Montenegro to the north, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south.
“We don’t regret our decision to come here,” Nikollaq Turlla said. “We hope to put one more stone on the foundation of the country.”
The Rev. Bob Carlson, a well-known local minister and regular customer of the Turllas’, attended the ceremony so he could congratulate them. Carlson said the couple very quietly does a great deal of good for their adopted community.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock conducted the ceremony with his colleagues U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Louis Kornreich.
Woodcock urged the immigrants to tell their stories to family and friends.
“I hope that you will share your language, culture, art and your recipes with the rest of us,” he said.
In congratulating the 17 on their new status as citizens, Kravchuk reminded them that in addition to being able to vote, they would have the privilege of serving on juries.
“I hope to see you back here as jurors, not as litigants or defendants,” she said.
About 1,000 people in Maine become citizens every year, according to Kurt Pelletier of the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration. Two or three swearing-in ceremonies are held in the South Portland office each month.
Four of the more formal judicial ceremonies, which include name changes, are held each year with two each in Portland and Bangor, he said. Name changes require a judge’s approval.
In addition to Albania, the citizens sworn in Friday were from Armenia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Egypt, Haiti, Peru, Poland, Romania, Somalia, Sudan, United Kingdom and Vietnam.