4/24/2013 3:00:00 PM Your Story American by Choice
David Chabukashvili, executive vice president of Operations and Marketing at the Royer Corporation, points to a shelf in his office, where he keeps several books about, and some keepsakes from, his native country. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
David Chabukashvili, right, and his wife, Natia Guldedava, stand beside U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Dinsmore of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Thursday. Dinsmore administered the Oath of Allegiance for the couple from the Republic of Georgia, who were sworn in as naturalized citizens after the long legal process. (Submitted photo)
One Madison resident finally gets the chance to call the United States home after traveling to the country for the first time nearly 15 years ago.
David Chabukashvili took the Oath of Allegiance to become a naturalized citizen of the United States in Indianapolis on April 18 along with his wife Natia Guldedava.
The couple, originally from the Republic of Georgia, had been working toward the day of becoming American citizens for several years.
Chabukashvili, executive vice president of operations and marketing at Royer Corporation, first came to the United States as a participant in a U.S.-Georgian business exchange program in 1998.
"When I first came, (I knew) there was going to be a long journey," he said, acknowledging that all of the paperwork for legal immigration could take quite a lot of time. "(I wanted to) do it the way it was supposed to be, legal."
But his journey to the United States began many years before that.
Chabukashvili remembers first learning about the United States by looking at an American magazine during his childhood. As a part of the former Soviet Union, the magazine wasn't supposed to be available in the Republic of Georgia and was delivered to the house by high-security mail. The magazine held information about the Cold War and political tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as the Nixon presidency and the Watergate scandal.
"The United States has always been helping Georgia with their freedom and independence," he said.
His parents encouraged him to take English classes, while also being fluent in the native Georgian language and alphabet.
He earned his undergraduate degree, then a master's degree in engineering in the Republic of Georgia, and had been working in the business field when he won the opportunity to be a participant in an exchange program to Cincinnati, Ohio.
Chabukashvili returned to the Republic of Georgia in 1999, where he married his wife and changed his visa status to return for employment to the U.S. The couple returned to the U.S. where he began working again in Cincinnati.
In 2001, the couple moved to Madison after meeting Royer's President and CEO Roger Williams, who had been a neighbor to Chabukashvili's exchange program host family in 1998.
The move to Madison was quite a change for the Georgian native who grew up and lived in his country's capital and largest city of Tbilisi, with a population of about 1.5 million people.
"Very few people knew anything about Georgia," he said, noting most people in the United States at first would confuse the country with the southern state.
The couple applied and received their green cards in 2008, which was another step in the naturalization process. To be eligible for naturalization, an immigrant must have a green card for five years before taking the U.S. citizenship test that shows an understanding of U.S. history and government.
Chabukashvili and his wife began the final stages of the naturalization process on Dec. 17, 2012. Four months later, the couple took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and received their Certificates of Naturalization with about 50 other naturalized citizens in Indianapolis.
"Life changed," he said. "I'm really proud to be a full-fledged member of the United States."
Chabukashvili and his wife also were able to share their experience of the Naturalization Ceremony and becoming U.S. citizens with their two children, Luka and Sebastian.
"It's something they'll never forget," he said. "It was one of a kind. It was a once in a lifetime experience."
Even though Chabukashvili, his wife and two sons are U.S. citizens, several of their extended family members remain in the Republic of Georgia. Chabukashvili hopes to be able to attain dual-citizenship in both countries.
"We don't want to lose that history," he said, noting that even though the Republic of Georgia is a small country, it has a large history.
Yet he still appreciates the value of becoming an American citizen and looks forward to one thing he hasn't been able to do throughout his years of living in the U.S.
"The first thing I'm going to do is vote," he said. "I've always be interested in politics."
Chabukashvili also values the other freedoms and responsibilities that come with becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. and living in a free country - even welcoming the chance to serve jury duty should his name be called.
"There's no limits. There's no boundaries," he said of this country's freedoms and opportunities. "This country gives everything."