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Whidbey's newest citizens

"Bator, 7, and his little sister, Anna, 3, sat quietly in their special chairs adorned with red, white and blue helium balloons. They and their classmates at Garden Isle Montessori School in Coupeville listened attentively as teacher Cheryl Wiggins read a storybook aloud, keeping the children occupied until the festivities were scheduled to begin. The blackboard behind Bator and Anna read, Today we are celebrating Bator and Anna becoming United States citizens. They have come a long way from their birthplace: Siberia. The celebration began with the arrival of a special guest, Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard. She welcomed Bator and Anna as citizens of the United States, presenting them with red, white and blue bouquets. As she knelt beside the siblings, the mayor couldn't help but beam at the small faces before her, two little full-fledged Americans. Through the Child Citizenship Act passed by Congress in 2000, and signed into law by former President Clinton, Bator and Anna, along with approximately 75,000 other foreign-born children adopted by American parents, automatically became U.S. citizens on February 27, 2001, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (www.ins.usdoj.gov). Before the Act became law, the children would have had to apply for citizenship upon reaching the age of 18. Sometimes children would face deportation if processing delays arose. During the month of February, Bator, Anna and their classmates, all preschoolers and kindergartners, studied about the United States government and about the presidency, said school director and teacher Darrellyn Currier. This information came in handy for Thursday's patriotic celebration. The sound of tiny voices reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and then singing God Bless America, You're a Grand Old Flag, and America the Beautiful, filled the room. Bator proudly displayed his story, accompanied by his drawing of the White House, America is beautiful with the stars and the red stripes and the house of the President. The President makes a new speech every day. You have to pay taxes so they can run the government. Bator and Anna were energized by the attention lavished upon them by the mayor, the media, and their classmates. While 3 and 7-year-olds rarely need justification for a party, the adults in the room realized the importance of this momentous occasion in the children's lives. It's a thrill, Conard said. I'll carry this with me, she added, as she patted her heart. The children's mother, Birgit Zacovic said that the automatic citizenship was like bringing the children home all over again. Their future here is secure. Bator and Anna were adopted by Birgit and her husband, James W. Zacovic, in Siberia, on December 6, 1997. Anna was just eight months old, and Bator, nearly 4 years old. A Navy family, the Zacovics lived in Virginia before transferring to Whidbey Island. Mr. Zacovic is a flight surgeon assigned to VP-46 at NAS Whidbey Island.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611 "

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