A married father-of-two who left his partner and kids for a Ukrainian refugee who came to live with them has told of the backlash he and his new girlfriend have received.
Tony Garnett, 29, opted to abandon his family to rent a house with refugee Sofiia Karkadym, 22, just 10 days after she arrived to live with them.
Sofiia arrived at Garnett’s family home in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in May after fleeing the conflict in her native Ukraine, but within days the pair had developed a connection.
The mother of Garnett’s kids, Lorna, ordered Sofiia to leave and accused the IT worker of making passes at her husband, but Garnett decided to pack his bags and leave with his new lodger.
The 29-year-old told The Sun that he and his new love have incurred a torrent of hateful abuse online over their decision, while some people threatened to try and get Sofiia deported.
‘[The public] don’t have a clue. I am quite thick-skinned… Sofiia is getting abuse, people calling her a home wrecker, and people talking about petitions to deport her.
Garnett also revealed he gave up shift work to become Sofiia’s full-time carer after she went partially blind following an eye operation, and said her arrival prompted him to cut off his relationship with Lorna which had long turned sour.
It wasn’t as if we had met each other and decided then and there to move out. I was leaving regardless, because I’d had enough of Lorna, who took against Sofiia straight away,’ Garnett, who also owns a security company, told Metro.
Sofiia suffered an eye infection in Germany en-route to the UK and now faces a six month recovery from an operation as a result.
Tony Garnett, 29, opted to abandon his family to rent a house with refugee Sofiia Karkadym, 22, just 10 days after she arrived to live with them
The 29-year-old told The Sun that he and his new love have incurred a torrent of hateful abuse online over their decision, while some people threatened to try and get Sofiia deported
Sofiia meanwhile insists she is not a ‘homewrecker’ and did not force Garnett to leave his wife and kids.
In a recent post to her Instagram page, the Ukrainian IT worker laid out what she took to be a few facts of the matter.
She said Garnett’s decision to leave his long-term partner was a ‘conscious and considered’ one.
She again denied that she ‘stole’ anyone and attacked media coverage of the story which she said was ‘clearly exaggerated and written in such a way as to be as dramatic as possible.’
‘The first thing I want to say is that I did not steal anyone from the family. It was his conscious and considered decision, the decision of a 29-year-old man who has the right to fall in love, has the right to be happy and has the right to choose who to be with,’ Sofiia wrote.
‘The second thing I want to cover is the concept of the ”yellow press”. Do you really think that someone can be abducted from a happy family in 10 days?
‘Anthony and I are fine.
‘Therefore, those who supported me from the very beginning and knew that behind any of my actions there is something real and wonderful – thank you. The rest – you will be disappointed in your judgements ;).’
Meanwhile, Lorna Garnett – who was not married to her children’s father but chose to change her last name – told the Sun on Sunday she believes Sofiia set her sights on her man from the start.
Lorna said: ‘She didn’t care about the devastation that was left behind. Everything I knew has been turned on its head in the space of two weeks.’
Jilted mother Lorna (pictured with ex-partner Tony) shared her anger after she let the Ukrainian woman into her home
Sofiia Karkadym (pictured) arrived in the UK at the start of May after fleeing the war in Ukraine
Sofiia, who is an IT manager, fled the western Ukrainian city of Lviv to escape the war. Pictured: are refugees waiting to board a train at the main railway station in the city of Lviv in February
Lorna told the newspaper she had reservations about the scheme but felt it was the right thing to do after seeing the ‘terrifying’ situation in Ukraine on the news.
She said: ‘I decided it was the right thing to do to put a roof over someone’s head and help them when they were in desperate need.
‘And this is how Sofiia has repaid me for giving her a home.’
The family had taken Sofiia in after she fled Western Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, with Tony Garnett telling The Sun he ‘wanted to do the right thing’ and that she was the first person to get in touch on a Facebook page where he offered to house a refugee under the Government’s scheme.
Sofiia flew into Manchester on May 4 after waiting for weeks in Berlin for her UK visa to be approved.
Garnett said he and his guest quickly developed a connection, and while his six-year-old and three-year-old daughters also took a liking to her, his partner of 10 years did not.
As the days passed Sofiia would join Garnett at the gym and they would talk in his car, while at home they grew physically closer.
‘At home I realised we were finding excuses to touch and brush against each other, it was very flirtatious but nothing more than that happened at that stage,’ he said.
‘Although it was fairly innocent it was causing arguments. I can understand that. When I got in at night Sofiia would be the one who had made a meal for me to try.
‘Lorna was never that enthusiastic about having a refugee in our home because it meant the girls had to move into one room.’
Just 10 days after moving in with the Garnett family, Sofiia (pictured) and lover Tony moved out
The IT manager (pictured) is now renting a property in Bradford with Garnett after he left his partner and kids
Things came to a head after an explosive row between the women left Sofia in tears and saying she no longer felt like she could live in the same house.
Garnett said ‘something inside me clicked’ and he told his long-term partner: ‘If she’s going, I’m going’.
The pair then packed their bags and moved in with his mother and father, but have now found a new property to rent in Bradford.
After his relationship of 10 years ended in the space of just 10 days, Tony said he feels bad and that Lorna is not to blame.
‘I am so sorry for what Lorna is going through, this was not her fault and it was not about anything she did wrong.
‘We never set out to do this, it wasn’t planned and we didn’t mean to hurt anyone.’