Three adopted Russian brothers adjust to new life in Raritan Twp.

Date: 2000-01-02

Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ)
Author: Jean Mansur; Star-Ledger Staff

When Robert Matthey wanted to know if three of his seven sons were happy, he asked members of his church to ask the question and relay the answer.

Matthey and his family marked the New Year by adopting three new members, 4-year-old twins and their 6-year-old brother, all from Russia.

But neither he, nor his wife or their four biological sons can communicate just yet with the children they brought to their Raritan Township home on Dec. 21.

Russian-speaking members of the Flemington Assembly of God Church, which the Mattheys attend, talked with the youngsters, who said, "They are very happy. They like their home, their boots, their hats and their brothers," Matthey said.

The lively twins, Yevgeniy and Vladimir, are from an orphanage in Blagoveshchensk on the Amur River, near the northeastern corner of China. Viktor, 6, was living in an orphanage in Svobodnyy, also in the Amur region.

The Mattheys have four sons of their own, Robert 15, Richard, 14, Ray, 9 and Jon, 8.

The seven youngsters spent last week getting to know each other and preparing to bring in the New Year at the Flemington Assembly of God Church.

"It's going better than expected. The kids are learning English quickly," Matthey said. "The older boys have been a blessing. They have been a great help."

The three Russian youngsters are getting used to the household routine. They are finally sleeping through the night, he said.

They also had physical examinations with the family doctor last week and appear to be in good health.

"The boys are a special gift," Brenda Matthey said. "We have definitely been blessed by them."

She is busy helping the Russian youngsters get used to their new surroundings, which are very different from their orphanages.

"It's very exciting," she said. "I'm trying to introduce them slowly and reduce the language barrier."

The Mattheys speak a little Russian and have picked up some new words in the last week. The three boys knew some English at first and have been learning quickly.

The Mattheys heard about international adoptions in the fall of 1998 from a speaker at their church. They said they prayed about it for a year and were convinced God wanted them to adopt.

"We had no plans on doing this. We have a full house. It was put in our hearts," Matthey said. "We kind of wanted the ones nobody wanted."

Their plans to adopt a Brazilian child did not work out so they contacted the Adoption Alliance, an agency in Colorado that handles international adoptions.

The Mattheys learned in September there were twins in a Russian orphanage eligible for adoption. They saw the twins' pictures on the agency's Web site, he said.

They were sure these were the children they were meant to adopt and began the legal process.

The voluminous paperwork was completed in October so they could travel to Russia before Christmas.

"We thought it would be special to have them with us before the holidays," he said.

They flew to Moscow on Dec. 2, with the intention of adopting the twins. When they arrived, they were told the twins had a 6-year-old brother, Viktor.

After completing the paperwork in Moscow, the Mattheys flew the 3,500 miles to Blagoveshchensk to visit the orphanages and to complete the adoptions on Dec. 16.

The authorities quickly arranged for Viktor to be adopted and to go with his brothers.

"We understand it's their dream: to be adopted. It's heart-wrenching when you go to their classrooms (in the orphanages) and 20 kids say, 'Momma, Poppa,'" he said.

The Mattheys and their three new sons were welcomed at JFK International Airport in New York by their older sons and relatives on Dec. 21.

Nine-year-old Ray is very happy with his new brothers "because I get more buddies."

Right now, the youngsters are "rambunctious" and eat a lot, he said.

The Mattheys are receiving spiritual and financial support from the Flemington Assembly of God Church.

"I think it's awesome; I think it's marvelous," said the Rev. Konrad Szierer, the pastor of the church. "I think it's wonderful to give them an opportunity for life."

The church is planning to establish a special fund so that church members can share in the responsibilities of raising the youngsters.

"I think it's an adventure for the entire congregation," the pastor said.

Fifteen-year-old Robert Matthey said of this three new brothers, "I think they are more than happy. They haven't stopped smiling yet."

Robert Matthey, 15, plays with his new brother, Vladimir, 4. The younger boy and his two brothers were adopted by the Matthey family from Russia.

Caption:
1. Brenda and Bob Matthey sit with their newly enlarged family at their home in Raritan Township. Behind them are their sons, from left, Robert, 15; Ray, 9; Richard, 14; and Jon, 7. In front are their adopted sons, from left, Vladimir, 4; Viktor, 6; and Yevgeniy, 4.

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