Ex-lawmaker who ‘engaged in domestic terrorism’ accused of trying to bring 60 Ukrainian orphans to US

Ex-lawmaker who ‘engaged in domestic terrorism’ accused of trying to bring 60 Ukrainian orphans to US

A former state lawmaker who was found to have participated in domestic terrorism is allegedly under investigation in Poland for trying to bring more than 60 Ukrainian children to the United States for adoption.

Far-right Republican pastor Matt Shea, an eight-term Washington state representative, says he is working with a Texas-based non-profit that helped rescue 63 children from an orphanage in Mariupol, Ukraine, which has come under intense bombing from the Russian military.

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But his presence in the small Polish town of Kazimierz Dolny, where the children are staying, has reportedly caused an outcry among local residents and officials, who say they have reported Mr Shea’s organisation to the US and Polish embassies and local police.

Aid agencies have also warned that with the war still raging and millions of Ukrainian civilians being displaced, it was inappropriate to send orphans overseas.

Weronika Ziarnicka, an aide to the mayor of Kazimierz Dolny, told The Seattle Times she became suspicious at the apparent the lack of information about the non-profit, Loving Families and Homes for Orphans.

Kazimierz Dolny Mayor Artur Pomianowski said in a Facebook post he had personally visited the residence where the children were staying, and had tried to clarify the “presence of people from the United States and their unknown role”.

He said police were investigating the case.

Mr Shea did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent, but told a Polish television showIdź Pod Prąd TV on 10 March the orphanage had contacted his organisation to ask for help to leave Ukraine.

“When you have children in very dire distress and they’re asking for help you go and help. This is the Christian and very important thing to do from my perspective.”

Mr Shea said the Loving Homes organisation had been hosting Ukrainian orphans for several years with the purpose of settling them in America with Ukrainian families.

He blamed “Russian propaganda” for spreading “lies and rumours” about his presence there.

Loving Homes, which has a non-functional website and no obvious social media presence, registered as a non-profit in Texas secretary of state in 2018.

But according to the Seattle Times, it’s not registered with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services which oversees adoption agencies in the state, nor US national agencies that facilitate international adoption.

The children are staying at a boutique hotel called Dom Dziennikarza — which translates to the Journalist’s House, in the town of 2500 people.

Former Washington state Rep Matt Shea appearing on Polish TV to explain his attempt to bring 63 Ukrainian orphans to the US (Idź Pod Prąd TV/YouTube)

In response to the mounting concern about Mr Shea’s activities, the hotel posted a statement in Polish on behalf of Loving Families and Homes for Orphans.

“We are in direct contact with the governments of Ukraine and the United States, supported by the highest levels of politicians, international and local church leaders as well as dozens of companies from Ukraine, the USA and Poland,” the statement read.

Polish radio station Tok FM has reported the case has been referred to the family court.

On 14 March, Mr Shea told a different Polish media outlet that the group had no intention of taking the children out of Poland.

A converted school sports hall hosts Ukrainian children evacuated from orphanages in the Kyiv region (Reuters)

An estimated two million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland since the start of the Russian invasion according to the United Nations refugee agency.

The National Council for Adoption communications director Kristen Hamilton told The Independent they had no knowledge of The Loving Families and Homes and they are not a NCFA member agency.

“If the organisation is not a licensed, accredited agency, then the organization is not authorized to conduct intercountry adoptions to the US.”

The council had also earlier issued a statement to say the current crisis in Ukraine was “not the appropriate time or context to be considering adoption by US citizens”.

A 2020 House report found Mr Shea, a former Washington state Rep described as a “staunch conservative Christian” and favourite with gun rights groups, engaged in or promoted three armed conflicts against the US government in recent years.

It called his actions in one — the 2016 standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge — an “act of domestic terrorism against the United States.”

Desk Team

Desk Team