The story of her journey from Uganda to the United States is too long to tell — and she would probably break down crying if she tried — so Stella Ndibuuza lets her “Czechoslovakian sister” tell it.
Ndibuuza fought to get here 14 years ago and then fought to stay, Linda Poulin said. She worked countless hours as a home health aide for Poulin’s mother while fighting to get her five children here with her, lifting them up one by one toward success.
Friday, at the John Joseph Moakley courthouse in South Boston, the struggle ended. Ndibuuza and her 18-year-old son Phelix Wamala were two of 50 new Americans sworn in at a naturalization ceremony that highlighted disparate stories of perseverance. They came from Brazil and Vietnam, from Canada and Nepal and 20 more nations. And, of course, Uganda.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Ndibuuza, 45, of the path to citizenship that was sometimes hard and frustrating to navigate. “It’s been like a roller coaster.”
But all her children are citizens now — Phelix, the youngest, graduated high school this past spring and stood beside his mother as they both took their oaths during the ceremony, which was moved indoors because of the weather.
“To be honest, I thought she would just come take care of my mother and be gone,” said Poulin, beaming outside the courthouse with her arm around her friend. But as her mother aged and dementia shook her grip on reality, for her Uganda became “Czechoslovakia” and the two women became dear friends.
“We became Czechoslovakian sisters,” Poulin said. “I’m honored today to be here.”
Around the country Friday, and at similar ceremonies in Northampton and Old Sturbridge Village, 9,000 new citizens took their oaths, pledging to protect and defend the United States.
“Generation after generation of immigrants have come to these shores because they believe that all things are possible,” said US District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock, who presided over the ceremony.
The day’s significance overcame Luz Margarita Fernandez, 59, who came from El Salvador 15 years ago and now lives in Chelsea.
“Today is very special for me,” she said, crying softly and clutching the certificate that bore her name and photo. “I wanted a new life for me and my family.”
That’s what the 50 new citizens share, said Keren Rimon, the day’s keynote speaker.
For Rimon, who was born in Israel and moved to Nigeria as a child, exposure to different cultures “shaped my belief that there are no real boundaries,” she said. “There is one thing that everyone here today has in common,” said Rimon, a lawyer who became a citizen last year. “We all came to pursue our dreams.”
Three of Yuderca Colón’s dreams — ages 3, 8, and 10 — played outside the courthouse while she and her husband, Michael, took pictures.
They were born here, after she came from the Dominican Republic 14 years ago and met her husband, a truck driver, on Cape Cod.
She had a green card for years, but decided it was time to make it official. “I love this country. My kids are here,” she said as they scampered around their parents’ legs, wearing red, white, and blue. “This is a better future for them.”