PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When Providence resident Lilly Medeiros learned Russia had attacked Ukraine, she immediately thought of the 16-year-old Ukrainian student she’s been speaking with regularly.

The 17-year-old tells 12 News she has been teaching Valeria Vereinova English over video chat through ENGin, a nonprofit organization that connects young Ukrainians with volunteers.

Medeiros said she and Vereinova have become good friends since they first met virtually last April through the free program.

That’s why Medeiros is so concerned for Vereinova’s safety.

“My heart sank as soon as I saw the news,” Medeiros said. “Especially hearing that there were attacks in the east of Ukraine, which is where her permanent home is, but then later hearing that explosions were going off in the west where she is right now … it’s just really scary.”

Thankfully, Medeiros said she was able to reconnect with Vereinova Thursday morning.

“She lives very close to the capital and needed to flee in order to be safe, she could only pack a couple of suitcases,” Medeiros explained. “They had to leave immediately. She and her family were in the car for over 30 hours trying to escape because it wasn’t safe for them to be at home anymore.”

While Medeiros said Vereinova and her family are safe for the time being, their situation is still dire.

“It’s been so scary and surreal to hear all of her experiences and her fears,” Medeiros said. “Her family doesn’t have anywhere to live, they’re worried about food … She’s not really sure what’s going to happen in the future.”

“They have family members whose houses have been ransacked and destroyed from this war, so she’s just very uncertain what could happen because there are so many different possibilities right now,” she continued.

Medeiros said she wishes there was more she could do to help her friend.

“It’s been very hard for me to go through personally because I feel a lot of guilt,” Medeiros said. “I wish I could just put her on a plane and bring her here because it’s so hard to hear her go through this and not be able to do anything.”

The best way to help, according to Medeiros, is to inform the people around you of what’s going on overseas. She also suggested reaching out to your local representatives to request military support for Ukraine.

“The more that we stay silent on this issue, the more innocent lives are being harmed and displaced from their homes,” she said.