Nature is one of the silent victims of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. It is difficult to quantify the damage – and anything but harmless. The Ukrainian Ministry of Environment has set up a hotline for citizens to report environmental damage. The extent of the destruction was publicly quantified for the first time in February. At the same time, it is also the first time that the destruction of the environment in a war that is primarily about civilian suffering is being discussed publicly.

One who cares deeply about the nature of her homeland is Kateryna Polianska. Before the invasion, she was a landscape ecologist, studying animals, plants and changes in nature. Since Russia invaded her homeland, she has been investigating what cluster munitions, fires and mines are causing there. To do this, she travels through the country, patrols the front lines and, like so many of her compatriots, experiences explosions up close. In an interview with the star, she reports what she experiences in her work.

Ms. Polianska, why did you stay in Ukraine while many others left in the last year?

In fact, I left Ukraine a month after the war began and went to the United States. I had to finish two Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) grant projects. It was a very difficult decision even though I was only gone for three months. My family stayed in Ukraine and I was happy when I came back in the summer. When I left Ukraine, I had a guilty conscience.

Is that why you came back?

We modified my fellowship program to allow me to study the impact of war on nature and gain the experience of restoring ecosystems after fires.

How do you do that? Fighting is still going on in the affected regions.

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