One of the referees at Euro 2022, Maryna Striletska had her life turned upside down in February when she woke up to her dog barking and her husband weeping. She was part of the team that created history as part of the all-female referee team to oversee an England game. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she was forced to pack her belongings and child to leave the country.
“I’ll never forget the moment. He was watching the news with tears in his eyes and said ‘the war has started,” Euro 2022 referee Maryna Striletska said. “In the first day, for 24 hours, trucks and military cars came through. The Russian army was friendly, asking us which way to Kyiv. They thought we needed help, and brought flowers and bread, but after a week they realised we didn’t want this help. After that they started to be angry and started shooting civilian cars and I thought maybe I want to leave.”
“I ran like a crazy horse because I was doing athletics. I wasn’t so good with the ball, but I like running!” she added. “In that time, we had maybe 10 girls in Ukraine refereeing, so each federation decided to find one girl. They asked me and at the time I was not so happy, but I tried.”
“It was difficult because all the road signs had been taken down. We had to hide in a village on the journey while we waited for tanks to pass through,” she continued. “One time we went to a church and slept on the floor, I’d driven for 18 hours and just wanted to sleep. At 6 am we would start again. It took me four days. After we got to the border we were queuing for 17 hours, but then after that it was easy – I felt we were safe.”