FACES OF AMERICA
Pelageya Ilchenko - Russia
It goes without saying that anyone who is 101 years old probably has a few good stories to tell. The most recent chapter of Pelageya Ilchenko’s century-long journey through life is the story of how she became a proud American citizen.
Born in 1903, Ilchenko and her five siblings were orphaned when she was nine years old. Being the oldest daughter, she supported the family through the Bolshevik Revolution, the starvation in 1933, and World War II, which took the lives of three of her brothers. “Starvation, devastation, fear, death, and patriotism- everything had mixed together,” Ilchenko recalls of her years living in the Soviet Union.
“I decided to be a citizen of this country because only here I could feel myself a truly happy person,” says Ilchenko, who naturalized on Citizenship Day, September 17, 2004 in Vancouver Washington, “…All I can do (to repay the American people) is bring them before God in my prayers. America is my peaceful refuge.”