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Stories of new U.S. citizens: Nickolas Grosser came to the U.S. from Brazil

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

This is Independence Week. July Fourth is tomorrow. Some people declared independence from working this week.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Your friends here in Studio 31 are working, but I, for one, declared independence from shaving this week.

FADEL: We've also been asking newly naturalized citizens about what it means for them to be an American. At a naturalization ceremony in Los Angeles, a new citizen from Brazil shared his story.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Congratulations, everyone. You are now U.S. citizens.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: All right, raise that flag.

NICKOLAS GROSSER: My name is Nickolas Grosser. I'm 28 years old, and I live in LA. I just became a citizen. I've been in the process for about eight years. I left my country, Brazil, because life wasn't best. I'm a queer person, so being a queer person in an underdeveloped country is not really the best. My country is still the country that kills the most LGBTQ people in the world, so I wanted to be safe. I wanted to be myself. I wanted to be free.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXIS FFRENCH, THE CITY OF PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AND ADAM KLEMANS' "BLUEBIRD")

GROSSER: It was my now-husband that pushed me to - for me to stay. We were together when he got his citizenship, so it was a process for him getting his citizenship and then working for me to get my green card and then helping me getting my citizenship. I was very lucky that my case was an easy case. You know, I came to stay a couple months with my brother and then ended up falling in love, and so, like, I have a cookie-cutter story, but not everyone does. We were in love. We met, and we just didn't want to give up on each other, so we were together for a year. We got married, and we've been together ever since. He was the one that asked me to - like, hey, like, I don't think you should go. I think we should fight for this, so we did.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXIS FFRENCH, THE CITY OF PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AND ADAM KLEMANS' "BLUEBIRD")

GROSSER: Coming here and having the love story that I have - meeting my husband and being together for so long - I think I've accomplished a lot of my dreams by doing that, and just the support he has given me throughout this - the whole journey - you know, now, this year, I'm starting school. I'm going to go to school to become a nurse. I'm, you know, trying to do everything that I can to just be a better person and be a good person for this country and be a better person for myself.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXIS FFRENCH, THE CITY OF PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AND ADAM KLEMANS' "BLUEBIRD")

GROSSER: It's very, very rewarding. I feel like I've put a lot of effort into this. I've been working for it for so long that, now, I feel a weight has lifted off my shoulders. You know, I know I can now - I can go to school. I can help any way I can. I've always been someone to take care of others, so I like the idea to be able to become a nurse and help the situation here, you know, especially during COVID. That was something that really pushed me to going to school again and trying to make sure that everyone is safe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXIS FFRENCH, THE CITY OF PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AND ADAM KLEMANS' "BLUEBIRD")

GROSSER: You know, I think I wouldn't be here without the support of everyone just behind me - all my friends, all my family, my chosen family. My dad recently passed away a little bit less than two years ago. He was my biggest supporter for me to becoming a citizen, so I'm sure he's happy, but I brought him with me today. I have his ashes on a necklace with me, so I brought him with me today 'cause I know he will be my biggest supporter to be here today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXIS FFRENCH, THE CITY OF PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AND ADAM KLEMANS' "BLUEBIRD")

INSKEEP: Ashes on the necklace - Nickolas Grosser. We'll hear more stories from our newest citizens all this week.

FADEL: You know, he makes me think of my dad, who came here for an education. A war broke out in his country, and he was able to bring almost everybody here. And they're alive and doing great because of it. And that's the life we have - because of him and because of the life he made here.

INSKEEP: USA. USA.

FADEL: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: All right. Thanks for that, Leila.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXIS FFRENCH, THE CITY OF PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AND ADAM KLEMANS' "BLUEBIRD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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