Ukrainian refugee divorces husband after falling for ex-Wonga boss

Revealed: Ukrainian refugee who found love with multi-millionaire ex-Wonga boss after fleeing her war-torn homeland to stay in his £3M family home is STILL with him a year on… and has now divorced her husband in Kyiv

  • EXCLUSIVE: Mariia Polonchuk has been with Haakon Overli since he left wife
  • Ms Polonchuk has since set up as a businesswoman in the UK

The Ukrainian refugee who found love with the multi-millionaire former boss of loan firm Wonga after moving into his family home is still in a relationship with him a year on, MailOnline can reveal. 

Mariia Polonchuk, 40, has been in a relationship with investor and dotcom entrepreneur Haakon Overli, 53, since he ‘left his wife for her last year.

MailOnline can now reveal that her husband Andrey Sheldunov who is still living in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv was granted a ‘quickie’ divorce from her soon after her relationship became public.

Ms Polonchuk and Norwegian-born Mr Overli got together after she and her sons were granted visas to live in his £3m house in Surrey to escape their war-torn home country after Russia’s invasion.

MailOnline revealed on September 4 last year that the couple had moved out of his family home, leaving behind his wife Imogen, 47, and their school-aged children.

Mariia Polonchuk (pictured)  has been in a relationship with investor and dotcom entrepreneur Haakon Overli since he left his wife for her last year

Jeremy Hunt (centre) tweeted a photograph (above) of Mr Overli, his family, and Ms Polonchuk at a local event last year before the couple got together

Mr Overli, 53, left behind his wife and school age children to start a new life with Ms Polonchuk (above)

The 40-year-old Ukrainian and Norwegian-born Mr Overli got together after she and her sons were granted visas to live in his family’s Surrey home to escape their war-torn homeland

Ms Polonchuk has now become a businesswoman in the UK, calling herself Masha Epshtein and co-founding a design business called ‘Lon: Ltd’ with her son Gregory Sheldunov, 19, who is also known as Hryhorii.

Companies House confirm the company was set up in November last year with an office in London’s Covent Garden, listing Ms Polonchuk in her marriage name as the sole director and co-owner with her son.

She describes herself under her LinkedIn profile, using her Masha Ephstein name, as a UK-based award-winning ‘designer and entrepreneur’ and an ‘accomplished executive with over 15 years of experience in entrepreneurship’.

It adds: ‘Over the years, I have gained significant diverse experience in various business fields such as design, engineering, construction, public catering, publishing, interior design and advertisement. Passionate about design and technology.’ 

She proudly boasts of her new company’s launch product – a socket adaptor hub with multiple connections for electronic devices, designed to tidy up the mess of cables around office desks.

Her LinkedIn profile describes the hub as using ‘unified connectivity/power delivery/data exchange technology to make our working environment neat and airy, contributing to creativity, efficiency and mental health.’

In a video to promote the product, she introduces herself as ‘a Ukrainian entrepreneur’, saying: ‘Because of the war, I had to leave my country with my two sons and eventually we landed up in the UK’.

On October 16 she posted a congratulatory message, praising her son, after their product which he helped design won a ‘concept’ award at this year’s Red Dot Design Award competition.

In a post showing her posing next to her product in the Red Dot museum in Singapore, she wrote: ‘Do you know the feeling when your kid just won a competition and you are so proud of him that you almost can’t behave properly? ?? I had something similar with this ??’

Mr Overli who was boss of controversial payday loans firm Wonga before it collapsed in 2018 has posted a series of messages on his own LinkedIn profile, praising the hub product and her work.

He re-posted her message about the Red Dot museum, saying: ‘The lon: Hub is in an actual real museum. Amazing for the first product; what will the future bring?’

Mr Overli also re-posted a picture, showing her and her and son picking up their award, and commented: ‘This is very cool! Well done!’

Ms Polonchuk has now set up as a businesswoman in the UK, calling herself Masha Epshtein

Ms Polonchuk co-founded a design business called ‘Lon: Ltd’ with her 19-year-old son Gregory Sheldunov (pictured with his mother) who is also known as Hryhorii

In another post when the award was announced four-months-ago, he wrote: ‘Winning a Red Dot award within the first year of founding is a very special achievement. Congrats to all involved.’

READ MORE: More than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees who escaped Putin’s war face being forced out of Britain after their visas expire

Other posts on his profile lavished praise on the product with comments such as, ‘This is very cool. Good technology is always like magic’, ‘This is really amazing’, and, ‘The future of desks is here, today!’

Ms Polonchuk had posed for modelling pictures for her photographer husband Mr Sheldunov who called her Manya or Masha in social media captions when they enjoyed happier times.

The former couple who married in Kharkiv in 2003 appeared to have a comfortable life before the war, with foreign holidays, and once co-authored a Ukrainian cookbook together.

They were also co-directors of a Kyiv-based company called Kontakt Media from 2006 until June last year.

Court records in Ukraine disclose that Mr Sheldunov filed divorce papers at Kyivsky district court in Kharkiv on September 19 last year – just two weeks after his wife’s affair was revealed.

She wrote a statement nine days earlier on September 10, saying that she ‘did not object to the dissolution of the marriage’.

Ms Polonchuk pictured with her former husband partner and father of her three children, Andrey Sheldunov

Mr Overli had repeatedly Tweeted his support for bringing Ukrainian refugees to the UK since the Russian invasion in February last year.

Former Health Secretary and local MP Jeremy Hunt tweeted a photograph of Mr Overli, his family, and Ms Polonchuk at a local event last year before the couple got together.

Mr Hunt said: ‘It was great to meet a Ukrainian being hosted by a local family… nothing more English than the village fete to welcome them.’

Mr Overli, who studied maths at the University of Oslo and also has a degree in economics from Durham University, made his money in the early years of the dot com boom after founding online stockbroker Self Trade in 1997.

The company was floated in April 2000 and sold in October that year for more than £900million ($1.1 billion).

Wonga fell into administration in 2018, having been heavily criticised by politicians, including Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, as a leading example of ‘predatory lending’.

Mr Overli’s £3 million Willards Farm family home in Surrey to which Ms Polonchuk moved as a refugee

Around 200,000 customers still owed a total of £400 million when Wonga collapsed following a flood of compensation claims.

Campaigners accused the controversial firm of being a ‘legal loan shark’ and exploiting customers by offering small loans with astronomical interest rates which many struggled to pay back.

Some customers reportedly faced interest rates of up to 5,853 per cent before the government intervened, limiting the rates to 1,500 per cent.

Mr Overli later co-founded Dawn Capital, which describes itself as Europe’s largest specialist business-to-business software investor.

A spokesperson for Mr Overli refused to comment on his relationship with Ms Polonchuk.

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