The Countries Between Us: PEN Ukraine and PEN America are organizing an online literary event

The Countries Between Us: PEN Ukraine and PEN America are organizing an online literary event

On May 25 at 7 p.m. Ukraine time (12 p.m. EDT in the US) PEN Ukraine and PEN America will hold an online literary event of fiction and poetry readings entitled "The Countries Between Us: Ukrainian and Ukrainian American Writers Share Poetry, Fiction, and Cultural Perspectives."

The participants of the online event will be Vasyl Makhno, Askold Melnyczuk, Alexander J. Motyl, Oksana Lutsyshyna, Dzvinia Orlowsky, and Irene Zabytko. The moderators of the event will be Andrei Kurkov and Polina Sadovskaya.

The meeting will be broadcast on the Facebook page of PEN Ukraine.

The idea of this online literary event of fiction and poetry readings is inspired by the participants’ shared ancestral links with Ukraine. The meeting will start with a short conversation between the writers concerning the cultural and literary connections between Ukraine and the USA, and the authors’ perspectives on their shared Ukrainian ethnicity. This discussion will be followed by readings from the writers’ latest literary works written or translated in English. The literary readings and discussion will be followed by a Q&A with the Facebook audience. The event will be held in English.

Oksana Lutsyshyna is an award-winning writer, poet, translator, PEN Ukraine member, and literary scholar. She is the author of three novels, a collection of short stories, and five books of poetry, all but one published in Ukraine. The latest of her poetry collections, Persephone Blues, was published in the English translation in 2019 by the Boston-based publisher Arrowsmith. Her latest novel Ivan and Phoebe (2019) has been awarded the UNESCO Lviv City of Literature Award in 2020, and the Shevchenko National Prize (2021). Oksana Lutsyshyna holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Georgia, and is currently a lecturer in Ukrainian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Vasyl Makhno is a Ukrainian poet, prose writer, essayist, and translator. He is the author of thirteen collections of poetry and most recently the book of selected poems Poet, the Ocean, and Fish (Folio, 2019). He has also published a book of short stories, The House in Baiting Hollow (Vydavnytstvo Staroho Leva: 2015), a novel, The Eternal Calendar (Vydavnytstvo Staroho Leva: 2019), and four books of essays, The Gertrude Stein Memorial Cultural and Recreation Park (Krytyka, 2006), Horn of Plenty (Krytyka, 2011), Suburbs and Borderland (Yakaboo Publishing, 2019), and Biking along the Ocean (Yakaboo Publishing, 2020). Makhno’s works have been widely translated into many languages; his books have been published in Germany, Israel, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and the US. His poems and essays appeared in English in Absinthe, Agni, Consequences, Post Road, Poetry International, and others. Two poetry collections, Thread and Other New York Poems (Spuyten Duyvil, 2009) and Winter Letters (Spuyten Duyvil, 2011), were published in English translation. He is the recipient of Kovaliv Fund Prize (2008), Serbia’s International Povele Morave Prize in Poetry (2013), the BBC Book of the Year Award (2015), and International Ukrainian-Jewish Literary Prize "Encounter" (2020). Makhno currently lives with his family in New York City.

Askold Melnyczuk is a writer whose publications include novels, essays, poems, memoir, and translations. Among his works are the novels What Is Told, Ambassador of the Dead, House of Widows and Excerpt from Smedley's Secret Guide to World Literature. His works have been translated into German, Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian. Chinua Achebe described What Is Told, a New York Times Notable, as "a marvelous novel and proof once again that the novel is not dead wherever it has… meaningful work to do." His second novel, The Ambassador of the Dead, was selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by the LA Times which noted that "Melnyczuk… has brought the great tradition of Russian literature to American soil in a transplant that is a work of art." The House of Widows was chosen by the American Libraries Association’s Booklist for an Editor’s Choice Award as one of the outstanding books of 2008. About it Kirkus noted "Melnyczuk’s hallucinatory tale achieves some of the fierce, distracting power of D.H. Lawrence’s masterpiece, Women in Love." Melnyczuk's book of stories, The Man Who Would Not Bow, will appear in 2021 from Grand Iota (UK).

Alexander J. Motyl is a writer, painter, and professor. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2008 and 2013, he is the author of ten novels, Whiskey Priest, Who Killed Andrei Warhol, Flippancy, The Jew Who Was Ukrainian, My Orchidia, Sweet Snow, Fall River, Vovochka, Ardor, and Pitun’s Last Stand. Vanishing Points is his first collection of poetry. Worries, his second poetry collection, is slated to appear in 2021. His artwork has been shown in solo and group shows in New York, Philadelphia, Westport, and Toronto and is part of the permanent collection of the Ukrainian Museum in New York and the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Winnipeg. He teaches political science at Rutgers University-Newark and is the author of seven academic books and numerous articles.

Dzvinia Orlowsky is a Pushcart Prize poet, translator, a founding editor of Four Way Books. She is the author of six poetry collections published by Carnegie Mellon University Press, including her most recent, Bad Harvest, named a 2019 Massachusetts Book Awards "Must Read" in Poetry. She is a recipient of the Sheila Motton Book Award and a co-recipient of a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship. A collection of selected poems by Natalka Bilotserkivets titled Eccentric Days of Hope and Sorrow, co-translated from the Ukrainian by Ali Kinsella and Orlowsky, is forthcoming from Lost Horse Press in fall 2021. She is a Writer-in-Residence in poetry at The Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College; a contributing poetry editor to Solstice Literary Magazine and Founding Director of Night Riffs: A Solstice Magazine Reading & Music Series. Visit her website at:

Irene Zabytko is the author of The Sky Unwashed, a novel about Chornobyl (Ukrainian transliteration) and the evacuees who returned to their irradiated villages. It was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Book, A Book Sense '76 Pick Selection, and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery title. The e-book version was rated Number One on and appeared on "The New York Times Bestseller E-Books List." She is also the author of the short story collection When Luba Leaves Home which is based on the Ukrainian community in Chicago. One of the stories, "Obligation," won the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, and was read on National Public Radio’s "The Sound of Writing." It was selected as The New York City Public Library’s Best Books for the Teen Age ’04. She was awarded a Fulbright U.S Scholar Award to Ukraine where she was researching the Ukrainian-based haunts of the 19th century writer Nikolai Gogol for an upcoming novel. Visit her website at:

Andrei Kurkov is a Ukrainian novelist who writes in Russian and Ukrainian. He is the author of over 20 novels and 10 books for children. His works are currently translated into 37 languages, including English, Japanese, French, Chinese, Swedish, and Hebrew. Andrei Kurkov often runs creative writing workshops in Ukraine and abroad, also lectures on Ukrainian contemporary literature and socio-cultural aspects of life in Ukraine. He is the President of PEN Ukraine.

Polina Sadovskaya, Ph.D., joined the PEN America team in 2016. Prior to that, Sadovskaya worked for Habitat Pro Association, an NGO advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples in Peru. She came to New York from Paris, where she was with UNESCO’s Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development. She organized various international and global forums, and managed a project empowering local communities in Africa with radio and new digital technologies. Earlier in her career, she was a radio correspondent and a marketing and communications manager with a major bank in her native Russia. Since 2019, she has been a member of the IFEX Council and on the Advisory Board for the Joseph Brodsky Fellowship Fund. She is fluent in Russian, French, and English, and has degrees in marketing from Grenoble Graduate School of Business and in journalism from South Ural State University.


PEN Ukraine is a cultural and human rights NGO uniting Ukrainian intellectuals – writers, journalists, scholars, publishers, translators, human rights defenders, cultural managers. With 136 members, it is one of 146 national centres of PEN International. It is a co-founder of the Vasyl Stus Prize, the Yuri Shevelov Prize, the George Gongadze Prize, and the Drahomán Prize.

PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers worldwide that make up the PEN International network. PEN America was founded in 1922 and now has become a nationwide community of more than 7,500 novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals, as well as devoted readers and supporters who join with them to carry out PEN America’s mission. PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide.

May 6, 2021
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