27 Sep 2014

Polish woman, 90, becomes US citizen 86 years after arrival

Anne Zajac, of Liverpool, has lived in New York state for 86 years after moving to America with her parents from Poland in 1928.

Zajac said that she became a United States citizen when she was a child and for nearly 80 years she has believed that she was a citizen. She voted, she paid taxes and she has her social security card, but Zajac recently found out that due to a clerical error in 1935 she was not a documented U.S. citizen.

"I became a citizen when my parents became citizens in 1935," she said. "At least I should have."

The error was found in November 2013 when Zajac went to file paperwork to receive her husband's social security benefits after his death. Henry Zajac, who died in October 2013, retired from the Syracuse Police Department. In order to receive the benefits Anne Zajac had to prove that she was a U.S. citizen. She found out that there was no record of her citizenship.

Zajac's son, Richard Zajac, took on the mission to prove his mother's citizenship. He called U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei's office repeatedly over the past year. Last month, Maffei's office helped locate Zajac's parents' citizenship application from 1935 in Oswego County.

The application and the supporting documents uncovered by Richard Zajac was enough to prove that Zajac should have been made a citizen in 1935, but Zajac still had to pay $600 for her citizenship application and she had to be officially sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
"It's been almost a year of frustration," said Richard Zajac.
Richard Bessette, an immigration services officer from the Department of Homeland Security, wanted to make things a little easier on Zajac. Instead of making the 90-year-old great-grandmother come to the Syracuse office, he made a special stop on his way home from work.

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