International jury announced for the 2024 'Encounter' prize

International jury announced for the 2024 'Encounter' prize

Ukrainians and Jews have lived side-by-side on the territory of modern-day Ukraine for nearly two millennia. Separately and together, they weaved a tapestry that has left an indelible mark on Ukraine's cultural, linguistic, and historical legacy. Long periods of peaceful co-existence were also accompanied by years of tragedy, separating these two peoples through different historical experiences and narratives. Yet, as the twenty-first century progresses and as Ukraine and Israel shape their identities as independent states, shared threads remain, giving rise to a new understanding of the past.

In December 2019, the Canadian charitable non-profit organization Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, in cooperation with Ukraine's NGO "Publishers Forum" (Lviv, Ukraine), announced a new initiative entitled "Encounter: The Ukrainian-Jewish Literary Prize ™."

The prize aims to build on the common experiences of Ukrainians and Jews over the centuries, expressed in the written word. The 'Encounter' prize is awarded annually to the most influential work in literature and nonfiction (in alternate years) that fosters Ukrainian-Jewish understanding, helping solidify Ukraine's place as a multi-ethnic society.

The first 'Encounter' prize was awarded in September 2020 in the fiction category (prose, poetry and drama) to Vasyl Makhno for his novel Eternal Calendar (Lviv: The Old Lion Publishing House, 2019). The second year of the award in 2021 was dedicated to the nonfiction category (historical works, biographies, memoirs, journalism, essays), with the winner being Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern for the Ukrainian-language translation of his groundbreaking work, The Anti-Imperial Choice: The Making of the Ukrainian Jew (Kyiv: Krytyka, 2018). The third year of the award was held in 2023 in the fiction category (prose, poetry and drama) with Sofia Andrukhovych named winner for her novel Amadoka (Lviv: The Old Lion Publishing House, 2020.)

The 2022 'Encounter' Prize was not awarded in connection with Russia's genocidal war against Ukraine.

In 2024, the 'Encounter' prize returns with judging in the nonfiction category (historical works, biographies, memoirs, journalism, essays). The winner will be named in September 2024 and awarded in October 2024 at the 31st Lviv International BookForum.

The Ukrainian Jewish Encounter and Ukraine's NGO "Publishers Forum" are pleased to announce the 2024 international jury for the 'Encounter' prize in the category of nonfiction.

Olexander Scherba (Ukraine/Jury Head)

Olexander Scherba is a Ukrainian diplomat and author who worked as Ambassador of Ukraine to Austria in 2014–2021.

A native of Kyiv, he graduated from Kyiv Shevchenko University in 1993 (German and English philology) and defended his PhD dissertation in 2001. His diplomatic career included various positions both in Ukraine and across the world: Bonn, Berlin, Washington and Vienna.

He was a speechwriter to many foreign ministers and presidents of Ukraine. In September 2014, he authored Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's widely acclaimed address to the US Congress.

On 22 November 2004, the next day after the falsified presidential elections, he authored a statement of protest against the falsification of presidential elections in Ukraine. Many other diplomats co-signed the statement in what became the Orange Revolution.

Since 2008, he has contributed as a columnist to Ukraine's central weekly newspaper Dzerkalo Tyzhnia. His book Vaccination Against Darkness was published in Ukrainian in 2020. Ukraine's PEN Club included it in the year's top 15 books in the "essays" category. His next book Ukraine vs. Darkness. Undiplomatic Thoughts was published in English by the German publishing house Ibidem Press on 30 April 2021.

He currently serves as ambassador-at-large (in charge of strategic communications) at Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and maintains one of Ukraine's leading English-language X (formerly Twitter) accounts @olex_scherba.

Iuliia Bentia (Ukraine/Jury Member)

Iuliia Bentia holds a PhD in Art Studies; is a Senior Research Fellow at the Modern Art Research Institute, the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine; and Executive Editor at Krytyka journal. She is a member of the expert group of the Ukrainian Theater Festival and Award GRA. In 2022, she was awarded a non-resident scholarship for Ukrainian scholars, cultural figures, and public intellectuals from the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM, Vienna, Austria) and the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (United States) to implement the special topic Russian Invasion of Ukraine on the Krytyka website ( She is a co-editor of the essay project "War is... Ukrainian Writers on Living through Catastrophe", which Krytyka published in 2023 with the support of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (UJE).

Alexander J. Motyl (United States/Jury Member)

Alexander J. Motyl (Ph.D., Columbia University, 1984) is a professor of political science at Rutgers University-Newark, writer, and painter. He served as associate director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University in 1992-1998 and of the Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers University-Newark in 1999-2008. He is the author of National Questions, 2022; Ukraine vs. Russia: Revolution, Democracy, and War, 2017; Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires, 2001 (Ukrainian translation, 2009; Russian translation, 2004); Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities, 1999; Dilemmas of Independence: Ukraine after Totalitarianism, 1993; Sovietology, Rationality, Nationality: Coming to Grips with Nationalism in the USSR, 1990; Will the Non-Russians Rebel? State, Ethnicity, and Stability in the USSR, 1987; The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929, 1980.