How to save Sparks Street – Lotta may offer the answer

A recent Ottawa Citizen column re-ignited a debate about what to do with Canada’s first pedestrian mall on Sparks Street. Here is my response:

As someone who worked on Sparks Street for two decades, I have followed with some interest the debate on whether this street can be “saved” or not. Continue reading

Lotta and a remarkable untold story from Hong Kong

According to Clyde Sanger’s biography of Lotta Hitschmanova, she initiated USC Canada programs in Hong Kong from 1952 to 1980. There must be hundreds if not thousands of stories that could be told. Here is one of them, as related by two Hong Kong twins who still remember Lotta after all these years, Lan Chun and Mui Chun. Continue reading

Video: Friederike Knabe remembering Lotta

“A lot of the volunteers I met had met Lotta for the first time in primary school. For their life, they never forgot it. They never forgot Lotta coming to their class, almost to the date when it happened, in ’58 or ’62, whenever it was. It was such an impression on them, that they became volunteers at an early age.”

In 2009, more than 50 events were held coast to coast to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-2009). In Ottawa, USC Canada organized a special “Lotta 100” event to honour their founder. Sherry Tompalski and Graham Thompson were on hand and recorded interviews of participants who shared their recollections and stories about Lotta.

Here is the first in this series, an interview with Friederike Knabe.

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Like Lotta, these Jewish refugees made a lasting impact on Canadian society

In a recent Ottawa Chamberfest lecture at the National Gallery of Canada, noted CBC radio host Robert Harris traced the lines of a remarkable story: how five Jewish World War II refugees each ended up playing key roles in the development of music in Canada.

In many ways, their story echoes the story of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova, also a Jewish refugee who left a lasting impact on the social and humanitarian landscape of her adopted country.

The five musical icons were Helmut Kallmann, Helmut Blume, Franz Kraemer, John Newmark and Walter Homburger. Continue reading

What do Céline Dion, Oscar Peterson, Jean Béliveau and Lotta Hitschmanova all have in common?

What could possibly link together such a diverse group of beloved Canadians: a singer, a pianist, a hockey player and a humanitarian?

Could it be that each became household names far beyond the borders of Canada? That starting from very humble beginnings, each has made an enduring mark in their respective professions? Or might it be the uniforms that both Lotta and Jean Béliveau wore? Continue reading

The Bruce Cockburn – Lotta Hitschmanova connection: “She radiated love and concern”

Bruce CockburnIn 1995, award-winning singer-songwriter, activist and humanitarian, Bruce Cockburn recalled how he first came to know and admire Dr Lotta in Ottawa: Continue reading

National Volunteer Week: a toast to Lotta and her pioneering volunteers

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week in Canada, let’s take a moment to remember some of our volunteer “pioneers”, like Lotta Hitschmanova.

Can there be another national figure who inspired so many Canadians to volunteer across the country in the 1940s to 1970s?

My own grandmother, Mary Rain in Winnipeg, was one of these.

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