Hope’s War Teacher’s Guide



A young adult novel set in WWII Ukraine and contemporary Canada
by Marsha Skrypuch

Dundurn 2001
isbn 1-895681-19-7

Pre-reading activities

Look at the cover

  • what do you think the story will be about?

Look inside at the photograph of a girl in the front, and the photograph of a girl in the back

  • how do you think these photos relate to the story?
  • can you read the handwriting on the letter in the background of the photos? Why/why not?

What does the title, Hope’s War mean to you?

Reading comprehension

pp 1 – 11

What is the significance of the first line of the novel? What is your first impression of Kat? Of Ian?

pp 12 – 21

How is Kat’s family life similar to yours? How is it different?

pp 22 – 37

Why did Kat leave St. Paul’s school? How do you feel about what happened to her? What do you think of her sculpture?

pp 38 – 56

Think back to your first impression of Kat. Has it changed? Why? Think about Ian. Has your impression of him changed? What do you think about Danylo? Is he a weak or strong person? Good, or evil?

pp 57 – 73

How are Genya and Kat different from each other? Which one do you like better? Why? Has your impression changed about Danylo? Why did Ian buy the knife? Where do you think he gets all his money? Has your impression of Ian changed?

pp 74 – 83

Why are mushrooms so important to Danylo? Has your impression of Danylo changed? What about your impression of Genya?

pp 84 – 95

Imagine that you were Danylo as a teenage in WWII Ukraine. What would you do in his

situation? If you were Danylo now, what would you do if the RCMP came to your door?

pp 96 – 115

How is Lisa’s home life similar to Kat’s? Put yourself in Kat’s shoes on Ukrainian Christmas day. How would you react to the newspaper articles? The graffiti? What happens at church?

pp 116 – 136

Who is Kat’s best friend? Why? Think of how others around Kat react to the situation that she is going through. Who is the most understanding? Who is the least understanding? Why?

pp 137 – 166

Read carefully all the court testimony. Does any one person see the whole picture in the

past? What do you think really happened?

pp 167 – 202

Why is Kat making Ukrainian Easter eggs in January? How do these eggs relate to the rest of the story? Who do you think is sending the hate mail? Why? Who do you think is spray bombing the graffiti? Why?

pp 203 – end

Who beat up Ian? Why Has your opinion of Ian changed? What about Genya? Kat? Lisa? Ian’s parents? Why? Why did the music make Danylo think about the past? What did you think of the judge’s decision? Was it fair? Why did Kat destroy her egg? What does the egg symbolize?

General questions

Why is the novel called Hope’s War? Can you name three different symbols of hope in the

There is an old saying, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” How does this saying apply
to the characters in Hope’s War?

Character study

Write a character study of the following people: Kat, Ian, Michael, Genya, Danylo

Compare/contrast Kat to her aunt Kataryna

Compare/contrast Danylo as an old man to Danylo in the past

Which character in the novel is most like you? Why?

Self and Society

Kat’s family celebrates Ukrainian Christmas and Easter. How are these celebrations similar or different from what happens in your home?

  • make a list of as many different family celebrations as you can
  • for each family celebration, think of one food that is served at that time
  • find a recipe for one “family celebration” dish

Self and Society (can be done individually or in discussion groups)

Divide a piece of paper into two columns:

On one side, list Danylo’s activity during the war. On the other, make a list about how this is reported in the news

Find someone you know who has had a news story written on them. Interview them about how they felt when the article came out. Divide a piece of paper into two columns:

On one side, list what really happened to the person. On the other side, list errors in the newspaper article.

Have you ever heard a rumour about someone? How did it get started? How did you feel about the rumour? How did the person who the rumour was about feel?


The following words are used in Hope’s War. Give a definition for five of them. Use each of these five words in context in separate sentences:

Displaced PersonBabaimmigration



naturalized Canadian


war criminal

infiltratenotorietySviat Vechir




zolota zhabka

malenka ptashka

hate mailrefugeeslave-labour







Find a copy of Chopin’s Ballade no. 1

  • listen to it carefully
  • how does it make you feel?
  • does it tell you a story?
  • re-read the two sections of Hope’s War in which Ian plays this ballade, then compare your reaction to the music with one of the following character reactions: Mrs. Smith, Kat, Danylo, Ian.

Bring a copy of your favourite piece of music to class.

  • play it for the class.
  • describe why this is your favourite music and how it makes you feel
  • does it tell you a story?


Find a book on Ukrainian Easter eggs in the library.

  • if you have access to dyes, kistka and wax, experiment with making your own Easter eggs
  • alternatively, using coloured pencils and a paper, draw a Ukrainian Easter egg, incorporating symbols mentioned in Hope’s War, or developing your own.


Find a map of Europe

Find Ukraine on the map

Using coloured pencils, draw the flag of Ukraine

Locate the countries occupied by the Germans during WWII

Locate the countries affected by the Stalin/Hitler pact of 1939

Drama activities

Using at least six students, act out the prisoner-of-war scene for the rest of the class. Draw straws to see who will be the prisoners, who will be guards, who will be Kataryna and who will be Danylo. Once you have acted out the scene, discuss how you felt about your role.

Write and produce a play using the material from Danylo’s court hearing.

Have a Goth Day at school. Go through your own closet and see if you can dress like Ian or Lisa or someone else in the novel.


General information on Ukraine.

Introducing Historical Thinking.

Download teachers’ guide here.


Author: Marsha

I write historical fiction, mostly from the perspective of young people who are thrust in the midst of war.