36 Sokolska, Prague: another Lotta pilgrimage site?

36 Sokolska, PragueFor decades, visitors to Ottawa have paid homage to one of Canada’s best known addresses, 56 Sparks Street, made famous by Lotta Hitschmanova in her memorable TV and radio PSAs in the 60s and 70s.

But did you know that Lotta was born in Prague and that her family home – 36 Sokolska – is also a “pilgrimage” site? Continue reading

Remembering Auschwitz: How personal tragedy led to Lotta’s mission in life

Remembering Auschwitz: How personal tragedy led to Lotta’s mission in life

Millions of Canadians can still remember her heavily accented voice on those celebrated radio and TV ads in the 1960s and 70s: “This is Lotta Hitschmanova of the Unitarian Service Committee, 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4.”

For generations, Lotta was Canada’s most beloved humanitarian, a constant voice of caring and compassion for those in need far away. But the deep-rooted inspiration for Lotta’s lifelong humanitarian mission is not so well known. Continue reading

Happy 110th Birthday, Lotta!

Today (Nov 28) we celebrate Lotta Hitschmanova’s 110th birthday with the news that over 1000 people have signed the “Let’s put Lotta on a stamp” petition.

Here is a sampling of the impact she had and why so many Canadians have signed this petition: Continue reading

Lotta Hitschmanova can help save the Sparks Street Mall – Part II

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

I read with interest Randall Denley’s Ottawa Citizen column, “A very ‘sorry’ plan for Sparks Street.”

Here is my response, published as a letter to the editor on November 22:

There will no doubt be much debate on the pros and cons of the City of Ottawa’s new Sparks Street Plan.

One element, however, deserves universal praise, as it doesn’t try to create something new, but rather builds on pre-existing social forces that ALREADY draw people to the Sparks Street Mall. Continue reading

Lotta Hitschmanova can help save the Sparks Street Mall

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

I wrote this letter to the editor on March 22, 2019 and have sent it to the Ottawa Citizen:

I read with interest this morning’s Ottawa Citizen article, “City’s public consultation yields Sparks Street vision,” and went down to 79 Sparks to check it all out.

I was disappointed to learn that there is no direct reference to Canada’s most famous address, 56 Sparks Street, nor to the celebrated woman who made this address so well known across Canada, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, CC (1909-1990).

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Before there was Giving Tuesday there was Lotta Hitschmanova!

Lotta HitschmanovaIt is only fitting that we celebrate Lotta Hitschmanova’s birthday (Nov 28) on the day after “Giving Tuesday” (Nov 27).

Since for millions of Canadians in the 1940s through to the 1980s, EVERY day was Giving Tuesday, thanks to Lotta.

She planted the seeds of compassion and caring that have been nurtured and continue to thrive generation after generation.

If you remember Lotta, I encourage you to sign the petition I have started to request that Canada Post create a commemorative stamp in her honour.

Thank you Lotta for everything you did to make your adopted country a more caring society and Happy Birthday!

PS  Just received today was this testimonial from Kevin H:

“I am one of those tourists who went looking for 56 Sparks St Ottawa. It was around 2015 and my first summer trip to Ottawa. My main goal was to find 56 Sparks St, which I did, just a number above a door, but it was rewarding to actually see it. And Sparks St was amazing, stone covered and no vehicles. The buskers were fascinating. I highly recommend a visit to this historic street.”

David Rain

How to save Sparks Street – Part III – is it time to create a “Lotta56sparks” app?

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

The Ottawa Citizen has just published my letter to the editor:

I read with great interest Thomas Brawn’s suggestion of creating an app to highlight the story of Sparks Street. I salute this idea and add one of my own.

Canada’s most famous address is 56 Sparks Street. Ottawa humanitarian Lotta Hitschmanova, who helped found the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, forever implanted that address in the memories of millions of Canadians via her heartfelt appeals on TV and radio in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

A bust of Lotta currently resides on the wall beside the entrance to 56 Sparks. Imagine what it would be like to have a recording of her old public service announcements playing for visitors as they passed by.

Let’s take a tip from the Oscar Peterson memorial at the National Arts Centre: his music can be heard alongside Ruth Abernethy’s amazing sculpture.

If Thomas Brawn’s proposal could also be implemented, imagine all those visitors to Ottawa strolling down this pedestrian mall, checking out the Sparks Street app on their smart phones, suddenly hearing this voice from the past, having a listen, perhaps taking a photo or two to show the folks back home.

Brilliant idea, and Ottawa tourism would be a direct beneficiary.

David Rain, Ottawa

(Editor’s note: David Rain established a blog in memory of Lotta Hitschmanova: lotta56sparks.ca)

Lotta Hitschmanova: A Woman of Impact in Canada

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

As part of Women’s History Month, Status of Women Canada has created an online gallery called “Women of Impact in Canada.”

It is “dedicated to women’s achievements, featuring profiles of courageous women who have made an impact in politics, the arts and sciences, and countless other fields.”

Dr Lotta is one of 100 women recognized by the Government of Canada and has been included in the online gallery as a Human Rights and humanitarian leader. 

I hope this recognition will lead to many more Canadians, men and women, learning about her remarkable life story, and the lasting impact she has had on her adopted society to this day.

David Rain

Little known Lotta facts for a Friday: you can play the piano in Lotta’s room!

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

Lotta’s room, “Hitschmanova”, in the Unitarian Church of Vancouver

Did you know there is a room named after Lotta in Vancouver? You can meet in “Hitschmanova”, or even play the piano there!

I learned this while giving a talk for USC Canada many years ago at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver at 49th & Oak.

Continue reading

In Memoriam: Gerry Brown, Winnipeg (1919-2018)

Have you signed the petition? Let’s put Lotta on a commemorative stamp!

 

“I remember a slight woman in an olive military suit who held the room spellbound.”

I was saddened recently to find out that Gerry Brown, a long-time fan and supporter of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova, had passed away in Winnipeg at the age of 98.

Gerry was one of USC Canada’s most dedicated volunteers and Board members. She first met Lotta in Vancouver in 1944, and decades later she joined USC’s legendary group of Winnipeg volunteers at Firehall #5.

Here is a biographical note that Gerry wrote in 2012.

David Rain Continue reading