WILMA MCCORKINDALE - Sunday Star Times - 16/09/2012
Once officially an enemy of her Czech homeland, Dunedin's Jindra Ticha is now listed as one of its most influential emigrants.
She was among 20 shortlisted, and the only Australasian out of two million Czechs living abroad, and joins tennis star Martina Navratilova and former United States secretary of state Madeleine Albright on the list. "I'm very humbled by the selection.”
More than 40 years ago Ticha and her late husband Pavel Tichy, both then lecturers at Prague's Charles University, were proclaimed enemies of the state after they fled when the Soviets invaded and imposed communism.
"We had lost our jobs," Ticha says.
"Our whole [philosophy] department was closed. I would have been sweeping the streets for the rest of my life."
The couple spent a year in England and arrived in Dunedin on September 14, 1970. Today Ticha accepts the contradiction of it all.
"Remember, it's a completely different regime. The people who kicked me out, kicked themselves out. A lot of them ended up in prison. It was a beastly regime."
She returned to Prague after the communist regime fell in 1989.
"That felt strange because, here I was 20 years later, in a city that had became a complete stranger to me."
Ticha had been writing since childhood and arrived with her first manuscript, but getting published had been impossible under the Communists.
"I had no idea what to do with it."
She spotted a publishing house and approached one of its editors. The work was not good enough and she was told to come back with a better book.
"And that's what I did."
Ticha has since published about a dozen books, the first on the Czech revolution. Her work reflects the migrant experience, covering periods in Czech history or her love of New Zealand.
Her most recent work, yet to be released, is Earthquake, about the death of one of her political science students in the CTV building during the February 2011 Canterbury earthquake, and the trial of former student Professor Sean Davidson for the assisted suicide of his mother