________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 17 . . . . April 26, 2002

cover Hope's War.

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.
Toronto, ON: Boardwalk Book/Dundurn Press, 2001.
247 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 1-895681-19-7.

Subject Headings:
World War, 1939-1945-Ukraine-Juvenile fiction.
Ukrainian Canadians-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7-11/ Ages 12-16.

Review by Joan Marshall.

**** /4


"He did it, you know."
The voice spoke so close to Kat's ear that she gasped. She swung around and came face to face with the protester. Seeing her up close gave Kat a shock. She had known that the woman was old, but with their faces just a few inches apart, Kat realized that it wasn't just age that had etched the lines on the woman's face. Unspeakable horror, untold grief. It was all there for the world to see.
"How do you know?" asked Kat.
"They were all like that,"said the woman. "They are all war criminals."
"Do you mean to tell me that you think every single Ukrainian auxiliary policeman was a war criminal?" asked Kat.
"Every one," replied the woman emphatically. "You and your family should kneel down and pray. Pray for forgiveness until your knees bleed."

In this powerful novel that brings the horrifying history of wartime Ukraine to life, a gifted visual artist, Kat Baliuk, struggles to make new friends at Cawtha School for the Arts where she has recently been accepted. Kat's life is shattered as her beloved grandfather, Danylo Feschuk, is accused of atrocities and ordered to face a deportation hearing based on his activities as an auxiliary policeman in World War II Ukraine when the populace of small villages were dominated first by the Russians and then by the Nazis. The friendship of two non-conformist Goth students, Ian and Lisa, and another visual artist student, Michael, sustain Kat as her home life begins to fall apart. Although Genya, Kat's controlled older sister, seems able to hold her emotions at bay while she coldly and calmly studies to make the A's she know she needs in order to aim for medical school, Kat flounders in her grade 10 classes and loses her school year while she focuses on her grandfather's case. The family is targeted by hate crimes, and Kat's friend Ian is attacked because of his looks. The judge ultimately finds Danylo guilty of not informing immigration authorities that he was an auxiliary policeman but adds that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will take into account that there was no evidence of deceit or criminality on Danylo's part.

     Although Kat is a fascinating character who loves her grandfather, her Ukrainian culture and her art, there are many strong secondary characters who seem full and rich, real people whose diverse personalities strengthen the story. Kat's determined mother, Orysia, struggles to find the money and the best lawyer to defend her father. Goths Ian and Lisa reject conventional dress and controlling parents, holding true to goodness and kindness. Initially a suspect in the graffiti attack, Michael becomes closer to Kat at she teaches him how to make psyanka. Danylo, himself, suppresses horrible memories and tries to interpret the past to questioning authorities, sustained by the memory of his beloved wife, Nadiya, whose name means "hope."

     But it is the theme of Hope's War that is its real power: should visual images and first impressions lead us to judge others? Danylo infiltrated the Nazi organization by joining the auxiliary police as an undercover agent for the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. But he appeared to be collaborating with the Nazis. Ian and Lisa appear weird and threatening in their Goth dress but in reality are gentle and compassionate. Dylan and his clean-cut football friends attack Ian because of his appearance. It is critical to Genya that her grandfather appears to be guilty. Michael appears to be the graffiti artist who is painting swastikas on Kat's house, but he seems to be her friend. Clearly the reader is encouraged to look beyond surface appearances to arrive at the truth.

     Hope's War is a gripping novel that effortlessly intertwines many complicated facts about the Ukraine resistance during World War II with contemporary Ukrainian culture and everyday Canadian high school life. For example, historical facts arise as Danylo is confronted by the immigration officers, as he finds a shoe while picking mushrooms with Kat, and when he gazes at old photographs. Even the witnesses at the deportation hearing come alive as their evidence adds details to this very tragic time.

     Hope's War has an evocative, haunting cover of a young woman's face behind barbed wire, an image which will draw students immediately. The endpapers are letters written in Ukrainian superimposed on photos of young women from the wartime years. An author's note and a resource list detail many up to date sources of information about the Canadian government's attempts to deport Canadian citizens based on accusations of Nazi war crimes.

     The ending of this novel is open: the reader is not sure what will happen to Danylo. This uncertainty will lead to animated discussion as students grapple with the choices that are made in the face of evil. Hope's War has been nominated for the 2003 Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award.

Highly Recommended.

Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364