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Dr Jindra Ticha was recently voted the 11th most influential Czech expatriate in a list of 20 selected by the Czech public, to officially recognise the contribution of Czechs who left the country during the communist era.
She was the only Australasian to make the list from the two million Czechs living abroad, joining luminaries such as tennis great Martina Navratilova and former United States secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
Dr Ticha (75) and her late husband, Dr Pavel Tichy, fled Czechoslovakia and their lecturing careers at Charles University in Prague after their philosophy department was closed and the pair declared "enemies of the state" by the invading Soviet army.
"It's very humbling and a great honour. As a writer, you do not face your public every day, so it is also an encouragement," she said.
Dr Ticha has published 16 novels in her homeland. They often reference her own life as a migrant and the sense of disillusionment and loss at returning home years later to a foreign country.
She returned to Prague after the communist regime fell, in 1989.
"I still go to Prague every year to present my books to my readers. I would like to translate the books into English, but it is very difficult when English is not your mother tongue.
"When you cross a border and become an immigrant, you become illiterate and deaf and dumb." She described the communist Czechoslovakia she left as "a beastly regime".
"It is so wonderful here in Dunedin," Dr Ticha said.
"New Zealand people are the nicest people in the world. I know this. I have lived in several other countries and life here is so untroubled and wonderful." Dr Ticha came to Dunedin on September 14, 1970, with Dr Tichy, who died in 1994, and their 6-year-old son, Peter.
"We came to Dunedin because Pavel got a job at the university here. It was very difficult to learn a new language, which you needed to get employment. Even now, I have a strong accent."
She later joined her husband at the University of Otago, where she lectured in philosophy and political science for more than 30 years.
Dr Ticha is now writing a book about the death of one of her political science students in the CTV building during the Christchurch earthquake on February 22 last year and the trial of her former student Prof Sean Davison for the assisted suicide of his mother.