RANDALLSTOWN, Md. - The path to U.S. citizenship can be lengthy for many foreign nationals. For one Maryland Army National Guard Soldier, the process took 12 years.
U.S. Army Capt. Fiodor Strikovski, a military intelligence officer with the MDNG 29th Combat Aviation Brigade, transitioned from life in Moldova to the United States after meeting Sarah Adams, whom he would eventually marry. They met during her Peace Corps mission in his native country.
"I was stationed in his village as a teacher," said Adams. "My counterpart was really good friends with his mom, and initially, they had us meet."
Adams said they did not gel at first, and they went their separate ways for five months until a chance encounter brought them together again.
"We were both coming from different parts of Moldova back to the village," said Adams. "And I was really sick on the bus where it was standing room only."
Adams said Strikovski noticed she was not feeling well and came to her aid in the bus full of people and livestock.
"He asked someone to give their seat up to me, and I just thought that was the kindest thing because I did not quite speak the language [Romanian] yet," said Adams. "So, when we both got off at the same stop, I said to him, 'You know, we should both have tea together sometime,' and we did, and that was it."
The cup of tea Strikovski and Adams had together led to the beginning of 24 years of marriage. Strikovski even turned down his commission with the Moldovan Army to be with Adams in the United States.
Strikovski said his parents did not favor his decision to move to the United States, but ultimately, they both gave him their full support.
"You have to understand that in the mid-90s in former Soviet Union countries, it was a very bad place to be," said Strikovski. "Economically, it was bad. There were no jobs. There was no law and order. It was chaos."
Strikovski said his parents eventually supported his decision to head west, where he now serves as a Soldier in the Maryland National Guard.
"The military career was always appealing to me because I have a long line of family members who were in the military," said Strikovski. "My great grandfather was a private in World War II. My grandfather was an NCO in the Russian Navy, and my dad was a warrant officer in the Moldovan Army."
Strikovski continued his family's history of military service by joining the MDNG. However, the MDNG was not his first choice.
"Initially, I went to an Active-Duty Army recruiting office," said Strikovski. "But I was told I was too old."
At the time, Strikovski was 36 years. He was advised to try joining the MDNG.
"The one person who was my mentor was Brig. Gen. Warner Sumpter, a member of the Maryland Army National Guard at the time," said Strikovski. "He persuaded me to join the Maryland Army National Guard."
Strikovski serves as a battle captain on active-duty orders at the joint operations center at Camp Fretterd Military Reservation in Reisterstown.
"We were tracking the COVID missions as well as the Soldiers currently on missions," said Strikovski. "That part of my job is over, due to the end of missions, but we are still tracking requests from other states when they have emergencies."
During Strikovski's recent years in the MDNG, he aided the United States European Command and the United States Army Europe and Africa Component Command, where he received praise from senior leadership.
"I could tell he was a character-based servant leader who I always enjoyed working with," said retired Maj. Gen. John Gronski, who served as the deputy commanding general for the Army National Guard at U.S. Army Europe from 2016 to 2019.
During Strikovski's time in Europe as an MDNG officer, he filled various roles in service alongside U.S. partners and allies.
"My first assignment to the United States Army Europe and Africa Component Command was as a liaison officer for a U.S. Embassy in Estonia," said Strikovski. "I worked at the office of defense cooperation, and I analyzed all interactions between the U.S. and Estonian troops."
As a Moldovan native, Strikovski said his perspective adds value to the MDNG for European assignments.
"Me being born there and growing up there, I do have knowledge of the region and understanding of the culture as well as the languages," said Strikovski. "These skills are useful in security cooperation."
One understands Russian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Serbo-Croatian and English. He has used his language skills to support the MDNG's state partnership program missions.
"I spent two years in Bosnia as a bilateral affairs officer," said Strikovski. "The close relationship between the Maryland National Guard and the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina is what attracted me to that position."
While in Estonia, Strikovski provided logistical and communication support for the troops on the ground. However, Strikovski's communication skills looked a lot different when he first moved to the U.S. in the mid-90s.
"When he came here, he didn't speak English," said Adams. "So, we communicated for probably three years of our relationship completely in [Romanian]."
Strikovski said the language barrier in the United States was a difficult challenge for him. However, it was not as difficult as adjusting to the cultural differences between his home country and America.
"In the United States, life revolves around work," said Strikovski. "We here [in the U.S.] live to work. Everywhere else in the world, people work to live."
After Strikovski completes his duties as a battle captain at the end of September, he will begin transitioning to serve at a U.S. embassy for a one-year assignment as a deputy of security cooperation at the Office of Defense Cooperation in Kyiv, Ukraine.