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Polish authorities won’t investigate Matt Shea following allegations of human trafficking

June 30, 2022 Updated Thu., June 30, 2022 at 9:06 a.m.

Former state Rep. Matt Shea is in a small town in Poland with a group of more than 60 children whom he says were rescued from a Ukrainian orphanage.  (SSR)
Former state Rep. Matt Shea is in a small town in Poland with a group of more than 60 children whom he says were rescued from a Ukrainian orphanage. (SSR)

Polish authorities won’t investigate former Washington state Rep. Matt Shea over his involvement with orphans from Ukraine and their possible adoptions.

Questions were raised in early March when Shea assisted in bringing 62 orphans from Ukraine to Poland, four of whom he was trying to adopt. Local Polish volunteers claimed the controversial politician and pastor from Spokane Valley wouldn’t let them see the children and was combative and aggressive.

Those claims led to widespread media attention in the U.S. and Poland which helped prompt the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin, Poland, to consider opening an investigation. If the Polish authorities had done so, eventual charges could have been for human trafficking stemming from an illegal adoption. The decision whether to investigate was originally going to take three weeks but has stretched on for nearly three months for an unknown reason.

On Friday, Agnieszka Kępka, the press spokesman for the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin, said the prosecutor determined there was no crime committed. Meanwhile, Shea has returned to Spokane.

Polish volunteers alleged Shea prevented them from seeing the children and that he was combative and aggressive when they initially asked to speak to the children’s legal guardian. When they discovered his activities and associations with far-right groups and his writings in a manifesto called “Biblical Basis for War,” which espouses violence in the name of religion, they grew more concerned. Additionally, Shea had faced an investigation by the Washington House of Representatives that found he planned and participated in acts of domestic terrorism, including his role in the 2016 armed seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. He was eventually kicked out of the GOP caucus.

Both the Polish and Ukrainian governments said in March that the children would not leave Kazimierz in Poland until the war ended and that all adoptions are on hold.

However, according to Melissa Nowicki, a prospective adoptive parent of one of the children, the 62 orphans are no longer in Poland. Nowicki said the hotel where the children were staying told the orphanage director that they needed to leave so the hotel could reopen to paying guests.

The Ukrainian orphanage director, who is the legal guardian of the children, tried to find accommodations in Poland but eventually moved the children to another European Union country on June 1, Nowicki said. Nowicki wasn’t sure if she was allowed to say which country the children were moved to.

“I think because of everything that happened early on with this group they are trying to keep things very low-key and very quiet,” she said. “They are just trying to avoid any unnecessary issues that might come up.”

Nowicki lives in Rochester, New York, and was in the process of adopting 11-year-old Oleksii when the war started and the Ukrainian government suspended all adoptions. Oleksii had already spent a month with Nowicki’s family.

In May, Nowicki visited the 62 orphans through Solid Rock Mission, a Christian nonprofit that is working in Ukraine and Poland. She visited Oleksii and the other orphans while they were still in Poland.

“I would say they are doing the best in the situation that they are in. I would say that most of these kids are connected to families here in the U.S.,” she said. “They desperately want to come. The kids were asking if I knew when they might be able to come to their families. They were asking if I could find their families online so I could video chat with them.”

Nowicki and other prospective U.S. adoptive parents have urged lawmakers and the State Department to let those children travel to the United States before their adoptions are completed.

Nowicki said she hasn’t heard anything regarding Shea.

“It has been complete and utter silence on that front,” she said. “While I was there I heard and saw nothing. Since I’ve been home I’ve heard and seen nothing.”

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