THE Ukrainian refugee girl who died after she was found unconscious on a British beach was ‘stressed’ because of the situation at home in her home country but had come abroad to ‘find a safe place a close pal has revealed.
Tragic teen Albina Yevko, 14, was found on Dawlish beach on Saturday evening – just hours after she was reported missing.
She had fled her war-torn home after the Russian invasion to the Devon town in May last year and was settling into new life and attending the local secondary school.
The cause of her death is still ‘unexplained’ and forensic toxicology reports from a post mortem are expected to provide the answers later this week.
But tributes continue to pour in for Albina – with those who knew her expressing their shock at her death.
Olena Kravchenko, 39, a married accountant from Kharkiv, also came to the UK in May with her daughter, Vasilisa, seven, and had grown close to the family.
She said: ‘I didn’t believe it when I heard she had died.
‘I thought this is not about her. I thought it was about another person, or a pet – a cat, hamster or fish. I couldn’t believe it.
‘Nobody thought it would be that way. We came abroad to find a safe place, so nobody could imagine that this could happen.
‘Albina was lovely girl. She was calm, she was smart. I can’t say she was very communicative.
‘As with all kids [from Ukraine] she was with some stress and some not understanding how it will be one year later.
‘She was normal teenager – calm, kind, smart. She was a very good girl.’
Olena said she met Albina’s mother Inna Yevko at a local church in Dawlish shortly after arriving in the UK last year and had been supporting her.
She added: ‘For any kid, it’s difficult to adjust. Our kids could learn English a little bit, but they can’t speak good.
‘This isn’t a second language for them. They can known only a few phrases and it’s difficult to make friendships.
‘I don’t think she was struggling with something. She didn’t speak about struggling. Her mum, she never said about any problems in school. She didn’t speak about this. I can only assume she didn’t have any problems.’
Olena, whose husband and brother are in Ukraine fighting, said Inna was from an area called Kryvyi Rih.
She added: ‘It was normal to meet people like this because all our lives, being displaced from Ukraine, we are on the move.
‘I found out about Albina on Sunday. Us Ukrainians speak with each other, and if something bad happens, of course people will call or message. It’s a close community.
‘My message to Inna would be don’t give up. Everything will be good one day. For all Ukrainians.
‘Albina was really nice person. She didn’t offend anybody. She was nice girl. And Albina her mother, she is really brilliant person -–she is a good mother, a good worker and a good friend. I can’t say anything bad about either of them.
‘She loved to read books, she was a normal kid.
“My daughter was playing with Albina and they listened to music together.
‘Her daughter was the one point of her life. She is alone and she had only a daughter. It is so sad.
‘It’s like you lost your friend. We knew this girl. She was a normal teenager.
‘We are willing to support Inna with everything that we can and give her everything she needs.”
Paying an earlier tribute alongside the release of a photo of her daughter, mum Albina’s mum Inna Yevko said: ‘Myself and my family are devastated to have lost our beautiful Albina.
‘Nothing can ever replace her in our hearts.
‘We ask that our privacy is respected at this incredibly painful time.’
Police said they are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding her death after being called on the evening of Saturday 4 March to reports of a 14-year-old girl missing from the Dawlish area.
Localised searches took place with support from the police helicopter and coastguard and an unconscious person was found on Dawlish Beach.
She was subsequently airlifted to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital where she later sadly died.
Officers said they are keeping an open mind but her death was not currently being treated as suspicious.
Albina was bright, smart and interesting
Another close family friend Viktoriia Zviholska, 38, added: ‘She was not only young, but also very bright, smart, interesting, she loved to draw.
‘She was a good person. I can’t believe this could happen to her.
‘Albina always discussed with her mother what she would do and where she would go.
‘They liked England. Albina rejoiced at the new school.
‘I found good people in them. I have only good memories of our time together.’