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American Pastor Is Pissed That His Ukrainian Adoption Program Is Going Badly

Matt Shea, who was found to have engaged in domestic terrorism, is in Poland to "rescue" Ukrainian children who he claims are waiting to be adopted to America.

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Ukrainian children wait in a bus after crossing the Ukrainian-Romanian border in Siret, northern Romania, on March 16, 2022. - More than three million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the invasion, the UN migration agency IOM says. Around half are minors, says the UN children's agency. (Photo by Armend NIMANI / AFP) (Photo by ARMEND NIMANI/AFP via Getty Images)
Photo: ARMEND NIMANI/AFP (Getty Images)

A far-right conservative found to have engaged in domestic terrorism in Washington state is in Poland, attempting to get dozens of Ukrainian children adopted into American families. There is no public knowledge that these children’s parents, guardians, or even extended family members are dead or simply just not with them right now due to war. But that’s not stopping Matt Shea.

Shea—a former Washington state legislator who chose not to run for re-election after an inquiry found he engaged in domestic terrorism—claims to have “rescued” 62 children and two adults from an orphanage in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mairupol, The Seattle Times reported on Wednesday. According to officials on the ground, Shea has been evasive about his actions and motives. But on Polish reactionary TV, he’s more forthcoming.

On March 4, independent TV show Idź Pod Prąd TV (Against the Tide TV) posted that Shea and his wife Viktoria (who is Ukrainian) “evacuated and saved” 62 Ukrainian “orphans” in a joint American-Ukrainian-Polish action. Idź Pod Prąd TV founder and pastor Paweł Chojecki (and Radosław Kopeć) coordinated the operation.

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In a March 10 interview with Idź Pod Prąd TV, Shea said he’s in Poland as a representative with Loving Families and Homes for Orphans. The organization is registered as a taxable entity in Texas with its office at a single-family home in Fort Worth, officers in Texas and Spokane, Wash., and a non-functioning website at time of publishing.

“It’s a hosting organization that hosts Ukrainian orphans in America with Ukrainian families with the intent that ultimately that ends in adoption,” Shea said, claiming the organization has been actively hosting children for “several years.” The Texas Secretary of State database shows the organization has been registered since July 2018.

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“They asked for help to come out of country. When you have children in very dire distress and asking for help, you go and help. This is the Christian and very important thing to do from my perspective,” Shea said. (Later in the interview, Shea encouraged viewers to visit his LinkedIn as a way to verify his qualifications. As of press time, Loving Families and Homes for Orphans was not listed as volunteer work, an affiliated group, or employer.)

The TV show then aired blurred video of the children in question, which isn’t illegal but does feel pretty gross, considering the entire interview is Shea’s attempt to justify getting these children adopted out to people in the U.S.

On Idź Pod Prąd TV, Shea claims “Russian-style propaganda” alleging Qanon-level treatment of these children has turned the public tide against their efforts and caused a second orphanage in Vinnytsia, Ukraine to decline to evacuate with the group’s help. “Unfortunately, there have been some elements in Poland that have been helping to disrupt the humanitarian relief we’re providing to the orphans with lies and rumors. What’s very unfortunate about this situation is those lies and rumors right now are preventing another orphanage from coming to Poland,” Shea said. “They’re saying we’d rather risk the Russian bombs in Ukraine than be a tool of Russian propaganda in Poland.”

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UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a statement on March 7 about protecting fleeing children during wartime from this exact kind of behavior. “For children who have been displaced across borders without their families, temporary foster or other community-based care through a government system offers critical protection. Adoption should not occur during or immediately after emergencies. Every effort should be made to reunify children with their families when possible, if such reunification is in their best interest,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a joint statement.

In the March 10 television interview, Shea claimed the 62 children are divided into three groups: children already in the adoption process by Ukrainian families in America; children who had already been hosted by American families but were not approved yet for adoption; and children for whom none of the adoption or hosting processes have started.

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Despite these designations, the actions by Shea and his friends have not gone unnoticed in Kazimierz Dolny, a tiny Polish town where this group of children is staying at a hotel.

Kazimierz Dolny Mayor Artur Pomianowski posted on Facebook that children are safe but the “case is being investigated ... by the relevant authorities.” In a follow-up email to The Seattle Times, Pomianowski said they don’t know what “Matt Shea and his friends are doing here around children. Mr. Shea and his friends have given us some contradictory information and, for that reason, it is difficult for us to trust them.”

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When The Seattle Times reached the mayor’s aide, Weronika Ziarnicka, they were even less diplomatic. “I asked him many times, ‘What are you going to do with these children?’ and he told me that ‘It’s not my business,’” Ziarnicka told the newspaper. “I got the feeling in my gut that something’s wrong with this guy; he didn’t want to tell me his last name.”

Ziarnicka claimed Shea said he was there by consent of the mayor. “And I know it’s not true because the mayor is the one that asked me to go,” they told the newspaper.