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 area was under Russian control for several weeks in March; it has subsequently become known around the world as the site of some of the worst atrocities committed by Russia in this war. At least 1,200 bodies of civilians have been discovered in the region since Russian troops withdrew from there, according to the Kyiv region police. At least 290 of them were found in Irpin, according to the city's mayor.
In addition to the human toll, the destruction Russian forces caused to the landscape here is brutal and omnipresent: Scorched earth, forest floors ravaged by missiles, and trees broken down and uprooted, while abandoned military equipment litters the ground. Many of the town's neat houses lie in ruins; the woodland and green spaces around them are off limits.
Anzhelika Kolomiec, Bondarenko's friend who lives in Irpin, told CNN the authorities have banned people from going into the woods. "We have a beautiful forest here, but this year there won't be any walks, there won't be any mushroom picking, there won't be berries. We are not allowed to go in because of mines and unexploded missiles," she said.
While the world's eyes are focused on the human suffering brought about by Russia's invasion, environmental experts in Ukraine are keeping a close record of the environmental damage it has caused, to try to repair it as soon as possible, and in hopes of extracting reparations.