encounter prize

Sofia Andrukhovych’s ‘Amadoka’ Secures Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Prize: Celebrating Ukraine’s multi-ethnic identity


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The winner of this year’s Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Prize, designed to honor the best work that promotes Ukrainian Jewish understanding, has been announced. 


The annual award, given in recognition of contributions that bolster Ukraine’s identity as a multi-ethnic society, honors work in both fiction and nonfiction. This year, Sofia Andrukhovych’s novel, “Amadoka,” clinched the prize, as announced on the BookForum website.


“Amadoka” first hit shelves in 2020, courtesy of the esteemed Old Lion Publishing House based in Lviv. By 2021, the novel made its debut in Austria. Then this August global publishing titan Simon & Schuster secured the rights to translate “Amadoka.”


“Despite the significant societal response to Sofia Andrukhovych’s ‘Amadoka,’ ithas not yet been properly discussed or read in the Ukrainian literary and cultural discourse in general,” said Olha Mukha, the jury’s chairperson. “Throughout our deliberations and evaluations of the shortlisted works, we grappled with the question: do we prioritize guaranteed discussion or a potential catharsis? Ultimately, we opted for the former. But can one truly exist without the other in this context?”


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The narrative revolves around its main character who, following a severe injury in the Russian-Ukrainian war in eastern Ukraine, suffers from total amnesia. His face, left disfigured, is unrecognizable, and he possesses no identifying documents upon his arrival at a medical facility.


A woman then discovers him and becomes convinced he is her husband, previously thought lost in the war. She attempts to either rekindle his lost memories or reconstruct them anew.


The novel’s title, “Amadoka,” alludes to the fabled Lake Amadoka. As recounted by the ancient historian Herodotus, this lake was believed to be situated in what is now modern-day Ukraine. The existence of Lake Amadoka has intrigued and confounded cartographers for ages, persistently depicted on maps until its eventual mysterious vanishing. It serves as a metaphor for  the fate of Jewish people of Eastern Europe and the destruction of the Ukrainian intelligentsia during Stalin’s purges.


Works by Ukrainian author Oleksiy Nikitin, writer and literary scholar Ivanna Stefyuk, Polish-Israel author Ida Fink and Anna Freilich  were also on the shortlist. 


The Encounter Prize will be presented on Oct. 5 during BookForum 2023 in Lviv and will be broadcast online.


Last year, the prize was not awarded due to the Russian-Ukrainian war. The book “The Anti-Imperial Choice: The Making of Ukrainian Jew” by Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern was a laureate in 2021.

Image: Valentyn Kuzan, Craft.