Football is known to help keep people going through hard times – and we’ve seen that it’s been no exception during the war in Ukraine.

This is certainly the case for referee Maryna Striletska.

Striletska (left) was part of the team that made history for female referees

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Striletska (left) was part of the team that made history for female referees

Rewind back to October, and Striletska had just assisted fellow Ukrainian Kateryna Monzul in officiating the senior England men’s team in their first ever game with a female referee, when the Three Lions played Andorra in the World Cup qualifiers.

Now, nine months on from making history, she has fled her home and country following the Russian invasion.

However, despite the hardship she and her family have faced, Striletska is now focusing on preparing for the UEFA Women’s Euros in England.

As Russian forces invaded her country, the 38-year-old dashed to safety in Switzerland, bringing her daughter with her and just one bag of belongings.

And, like many people, she’s used her love for football to get her through such a horrific period of her life, assistant refereeing in the Swiss men’s third division thanks to help from the Ukrainian FA, whilst she fears for her husband’s life back at home.

“It’s our team, Kateryna, me and Oleksandra [Ardasheva] or Svitlana [Grushko],” she explained to BBC Sport. “This is a small team, a small family. It’s really like sisters.

“But now, since the war has started, I’m seeing that the referee world is like a big family and I feel I am part of that; people want to help.”

She went on: “For three weeks I cried every day. I was forgetting I was in the world of football because I was thinking about the war.

“That’s why I had to start refereeing.”

The Women’s Euros begin in just over two weeks’ time, and Striletska has said that officiating in the tournament will offer her another opportunity to switch off from the turmoil in her homeland.

Striletska (right) regularly refereed in the Ukrainian Premier League

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Striletska (right) regularly refereed in the Ukrainian Premier League

“I was really happy to get the news about the Euros,” Striletska says. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, I can forget about the war and I’m looking forward to us working together again.”

Her colleague Monzul has also been refereeing in preparation for the tournament despite the war, officiating in the women’s Serie A.

The pair join a host of Ukrainian sporting stars who have been praised for continuing in their role despite the horrific scenes in their country.

Footballers Oleksandr Zinchenko of Man City and West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko were both also commended for carrying on with their respective clubs’ Premier League seasons.

The Women’s Euros is set to be one of the most exciting tournament in women’s football yet, with tickets for the final at Wembley already sold out

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The Women’s Euros is set to be one of the most exciting tournament in women’s football yet, with tickets for the final at Wembley already sold out

talkSPORT will broadcast every England match of the UEFA Women’s Euros tournament this summer, along with the crunch games in the final stages. 

The network will also broadcast all of Northern Ireland’s games in England’s group including Norway versus Northern Ireland and Austria versus Northern Ireland, plus updates and analysis from the tournament across its schedule. Full details of our coverage HERE.

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