Ukraine’s natural environment is a casualty of war. The damage could be felt for decades

The pine forests around Irpin are Oleh Bondarenko’s happy place. He discovered them as a child, when his mom sent him to the area for summer camp, and he has been coming back ever since.

“It’s a place full of memories. Vorzel, Irpin, Bucha, the forests, the fresh air. For me, this is a place of respite,” the 64-year-old environmental scientist told CNN during a recent trip to Irpin.

The hour-long journey from Kyiv – a trip he has made many times over the decades – was filled with anguish for Bondarenko, who worried what he would find in Irpin. “This is the first time I am coming back since our brothers ‘visited’ Irpin,” he said, referring to Russian troops.