The War Below

The War Below
Age Range
Release Date
April 24, 2018
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The Nazis took Luka from his home in Ukraine and forced him into a labor camp. Now, Luka has smuggled himself out -- even though he left behind his dearest friend, Lida. Someday, he vows, he'll find her again.

But first, he must survive.

Racing through the woods and mountains, Luka evades capture by both Nazis and Soviet agents. Then he meets up with an underground army whose members are fighting Nazis and Soviets alike. But the desperate rescues and guerilla raids put Luka back in the line of fire. Can he persevere long enough to find Lida again or make it back home where his father must be waiting for him?

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, author of Making Bombs for Hitler, delivers another action-packed story, inspired by true events, of daring quests and the crucial decisions we make in the face of war.

Editor review

1 review
WWII in the Ukraine
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
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Luka and his family lived in the Ukraine, where his father ran a pharmacy and let Luka help with the medicines quite a bit. His father was taken off by the secret police, and Luka ended up by himself in a concentration camp. There, he befriended Lida (from Making Bombs for Hitler). When he ends up in the hospital with a wound to his thigh, Lida encourages him to escape. He does, in a death cart, and jumps out before he gets to the mass grave. He manages to make his way across the countryside, scantily clad and injured, and takes refuge in a barn. Eventually, he tries to steal food, but the couple, Helmut and Margarete, find him. Having two sons of their own, they take pity on him and get him squared away. Eventually, he learns to trust them even though one of their sons is in the WehrMacht and could turn his parents in if they caught him harboring a prisoner. Luka stays for a while, but is determined to make his way to Kyiv to find his father. With the war going badly for the Nazis, it's not safe for him to go towards the city, and he ends up becoming involved with the Ukranian resistance with Martina, a girl who helps him survive in the forest. Once liberation comes, Luka searches for both Lida and his father, hoping that the Red Cross can help him find them.
Good Points
rom the tense beginning, where Luka is trying to escape in the death cart, to the end, where he is able to find some peace, this is a riveting read. Having it set in the Ukraine, with the resistance, adds even more interest to a topic that some would consider to be overdone. As much as I think sometimes that there are too many books about World War II, I know that there are lots of readers who enjoy these books, and that there is always room for fresh titles on new topics.

It also helps that The War Below covers many facets of the Jewish experience-- flash backs to daily life in Kyiv, time in the camps, and time hiding out in the wilderness. I wish that more books followed characters after liberation, when times were especially tense and unsettled. The end of this book reminded me of my all time favorite, Moskin's I am Rosemarie (1972).

The cover of this book is compelling, and will make for an excellent display when accompanied by Gratz's Prisoner B-3087, Bartoletti's The Boy Who Dared, this author's companion title and McCormick's nonfiction The Plot to Kill Hitler.
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