“I consider it a great honor and a sincere pleasure to unveil this memorial plaque to a great man and a great family.” With those words, His Excellency, Raphael Gvir, Israel’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, concluded his brief remarks in the small-town square in front of the house at U Templu Street 10 in Boskovice in June 1998.
Earlier, the cantor of the Brno synagogue and a small chorus had chanted a brief prayer, and the vice-mayor of the city had welcomed everyone to the event. A crowd of about 90 invited local people and dignitaries, and perhaps another 50 local folks who happened to stumble onto this ceremony, waited eagerly.
Also present were 27 members of the Ticho family from England, Israel, South America and the US who came, on this Sunday morning, specifically to attend this dedication and to tour the Czech Republic.
Windows of surrounding houses were open with curious residents peering out. Children squeezed through the crowd to get a better look. Now they all stood silently, with eyes on the ambassador, waiting to see what would happen next. Two newsreel cameramen and some reporters were covering the event.
The ambassador paused briefly, waiting for his last sentence to be translated into Czech, then stepped toward the wall to pull down a white sheet that was covering the plaque. He gripped the cloth and pulled down. Nothing happened. He tried again. The cloth remained in place. There was a moment of embarrassed silence.
“This is no way for this ceremony, after all the work that has gone into it, to end,” I said to myself and joined the ambassador for one more pull. The cloth came down revealing the plaque and filling me with great emotion.
Some of the family members joined me with a tear or two. The crowd applauded, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. It had been a long road, and I had just saved a piece of our family’s history.
During the past few years, with the help of a dedicated and skilled genealogist, we were able to trace the Ticho family back eight generations to the late-1600s. They all lived, married, raised families and died in Boskovice, a small town in today’s Czech Republic. This town was a major spearhead among the Jewish communities of the land, an effort in which the Ticho family played a substantial role.
I also learned the important role that the house at U Templu Street 10 (By the Temple Street 10) in Boskovice played in our family’s history. In 1846 the house belonged to the Fuchs family. The head of this family was the deacon of the large town synagogue and was a well-respected member of the Jewish community. His daughter, Esther, was married to Avraham Ticho, the assistant rabbi of the community, my great-grandfather and the highly esteemed head of a major branch of the Ticho family.
On March 27, 1846, Esther left her home at number 56 and came to the Fuchs house at U Templu 10 (city registered house number 18) in order to be with her mother as she delivered her sixth child and second son, Yitzhak Zvi Ticho, the man who one day would become the father of 13 children, grandfather of 35, my grandfather and the family root of countless other family trees and branches thereafter.
IN 1995, when I first learned of the significance of this house, it was in great disrepair. So much so that no one lived in it. The roof leaked, the chimney needed rebuilding, the exterior was in shambles and the house was near collapse.
Old real estate records indicated that Abraham Ticho, my great-grandfather, purchased the house in 1843. When Abraham died, the house was passed on to his son, Yitzhak and then to Yitzhak’s eldest son, Jacob.
The house was in the family for more than 100 years until it was seized by the Nazis in 1940. After World War II the house was nationalized by the communist Czechoslovak government, and then the town authorities sold it to two Czech families.
I decided that it was important that this house should be preserved. It is hard for me to explain why I felt so strongly that this piece of our family history should not fall victim to time and neglect.
During an earlier 1996 visit to Boskovice, I learned that another house that played a major role in our family’s history no longer existed. The house on the main square of the town that my grandfather, Ignatz Hirsch Ticho (Yitzhak Zvi Ticho) bought and where my father and all his siblings were born, had been torn down and replaced by a new building.
Now, I felt that the house at U Templu 10, this last vestige of the life of our family that had stretched over several centuries in this town, must be preserved.
I approached the two owners of the house at U Templu 10 (one owned the downstairs and the other the upstairs) with a simple proposal: Allow me to replace the roof, rebuild the chimney and repair the exterior of the house, and I will ask you for just two things. First, allow me to place a plaque on the outside of the house, and second, agree not to sell the house for 15 years.
After a few weeks, an agreement was signed, and the reconditioning of the house began. I was anxious that the work be completed by the time of the “June 1998 Ticho Family Festival” in Israel that was followed by the family gathering in Boskovice for the dedication of the plaque.
While this is my personal campaign, I was eager to have other family members share in the restoration of our ancestral home. To my great pleasure, several did with small and large donations and by attending the dedication.
It is through a very fortunate set of circumstances that the family of Ignatz Ticho not only flourished, but also managed to survive the Holocaust with most of its family members alive. It might have been the strict and formal Jewish upbringing in the Ignatz Ticho household that resulted in such a great bond among the 13 adult children that translated into an intense, dedicated, and unified effort to save the family. Or, it might have been just sheer luck.
In any event, when, after World War II the survivors of one of the greatest human tragedies gathered, many offspring of Ignatz Ticho were among the fortunate few who were alive. Today, some 75 years later, these survivors have built many large, thriving families of their own in Israel, the US, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia and England and, true to the spirit of their forefathers, continue to live and act as one large extended Jewish family.
It is my sincere wish that, as I did, other members of our family will take their children and grandchildren by the hand and bring them to Boskovice and Brno and say: “This is where our forefathers were born, here is where they prayed, here is where their children played, where they lived, and this is where they were laid to rest.
“This town was once the beating heart of a Jewish community that lived here for over a thousand years and, throughout the few good times and some bad times, held firm to the teachings of our religion and made the survival of our Jewish faith possible.”
The plaque reads in Hebrew, Czech and English: “In this house, on March 27, 1846, was born Ignatz Hirsch Ticho, a scholar and the founder of the Ticho family.” ■