CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 17 . . . . April 26, 2002
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."
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.
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.
Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg,
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