Iryna Mazur may have been among the first in the Philadelphia region to realize Wednesday night that her Ukrainian homeland was minutes from falling under Russian attack.

She’s fluent not only in Ukrainian but in Russian. And as she watched a live feed of President Vladimir Putin’s address on state television — she’s studied him for a long time — she understood exactly what he was saying.

“It was obvious the attack would be right after the speech,” she said.

News reports of Russian shelling soon dominated the news channels.

Mazur, the honorary consul of Ukraine in Philadelphia, spent the rest of the night on Zoom, talking to members of the region’s large Ukrainian community and fielding the latest updates from contacts inside Ukraine itself.

“All Ukrainians wept,” she said. “We all cried. … Watching those missiles hit Kyiv.”

On Thursday, tears dried.

Mazur was on the highway, driving to Washington for a late-afternoon rally outside the White House, and laying plans for a pro-Ukrainian demonstration in Center City on Friday.

“We are not panicking,” Mazur said. “We are regrouping.”

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She and other Ukrainian leaders rallied people to call their elected officials and President Joe Biden to demand greater support for embattled Ukraine.

Some 5,245 Ukrainian immigrants make their homes in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburban and South Jersey counties, as do 54,324 people of Ukrainian ancestry.

After weeks of international tension, troop buildups, threats, and diplomacy, the news when it came still was jarring — their homeland being invaded, their family members there in danger.

“Everyone is in a state of shock,” said Denis Sichkar, pastor of the First Ukrainian Baptist Church in Northeast Philadelphia, where parishioners are seeing the war unfold in messages from loved ones overseas.

Most of the church’s 200 parishioners are first-generation immigrants, who arrived after the collapse of the Soviet Union. All have family members in Ukraine.

Sichkar, born in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, said the congregation is focusing on determining how to help what’s expected to be a flood of refugees moving out of Ukraine and into surrounding countries.

Poland, Romania, and Slovakia are bracing for potentially millions of refugees, adding to a worldwide crisis that sees 84 million people — roughly the population of Germany — now forcibly displaced by persecution, violence, or human-rights violations.

Ukraine is a nation of about 44 million people, a land roughly the size of Texas. Immigrants from the Black Sea state came to the Philadelphia region and the United States in distinct waves, beginning in about 1870.

Poor farmers who had been enslaved by the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires were drawn here by the promise of steady, paying jobs. About 240,000 settled in the U.S. eastern farmlands and in anthracite coal-mining towns in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

As many as 250,000 more Ukrainians arrived in the early 1900s, helping create the new, industrial world through jobs at steel, glass, and rail manufacturers in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Ukrainian immigration paused at the start of World War I, then all but stopped after Congress set limits on migrants. At the end of World War II, tens of thousands of displaced Ukrainians came to the United States, where they helped revive and expand local Ukrainian American organizations.

The Soviet Union’s control of Ukraine essentially cut off new immigration for four decades. It resumed only with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and official Ukrainian independence in 1991.

On Thursday, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia was investigating raising funds to support the 200,000 Jews in Ukraine — 9,000 of them Holocaust survivors — given “what is no longer just unrest, but clearly a war,” said Michael Balaban, president and CEO of the nonprofit organization.

“We’re concerned for the safety of everyone in the region, but most especially — based on our mission — the safety of the Jewish population there,” Balaban said.

On a cold, damp Thursday night, parishioners trickled in twos and threes into St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jenkintown, many of them recently immigrants come to say a prayer for their homeland. Some couldn’t hold back their tears.

“I got up and read messages from my sister that they’ve been attacked,” said Olena Dmytriieva,of Philadelphia.

Most parishioners at the church, where the U.S. and Ukraine flags fly side-by-side outside the main door, came to this country within the last 20 years. Many have parents and siblings who now are in danger.

“The worst is the unknown — ‘What’s going to happen next?’” said Bishop Andriy Rabiy.

Ukrainians here were trying to contact family members and friends in Ukraine. They made plans to attend Friday’s pro-Ukraine rally in Philadelphia and, tentatively, a larger, national gathering in Washington on March 6.

“The worst nightmare is happening. I’m living a nightmare,” said Eugene Luciw, president of the local chapter of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. “At the same time, we are united for Ukraine.”

He was at his Towamencin Township home Wednesday night, preparing a presentation on the crisis that he’s to deliver to a local elder-care home.

Then his phone rang. It was war.

He thought of his wife’s family, her aunts and cousins in Lviv. And of how in 2019 the local Ukrainian American Sport Center in Horsham had hosted a group of women athletes from Ukraine. He learned on Thursday that several were taking cover in bomb shelters.

All the sanctions now being imposed on Russia by the White House and its allies should have been put in place eight years ago, Luciw said, when Putin attacked and annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

Mazur, the local Ukrainian consul, thought the same. Her parents and brother still live in Ukraine.

“It’s just absolutely horrible, horrible aggression,” she said. “This would never have happened if the world had acted eight years ago. … Each time we tolerate him, each time the world communicates with him and negotiates, he takes it as a sign of weakness.”

Staff writers Max Marin and Marina Affo contributed to this article.