“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.
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.
“Development often starts with a woman. Support leadership programs for women through the USC, 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa.”
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s give a thought to one of our pioneering women leaders, Lotta Hitschmanova, and the impact she had on her adopted country, Canada.
Quite remarkably, as a refugee, she became perhaps the most prominent Canadian woman of her generation. But more than that, she pushed hard for women’s development around the world, well before this became a key approach followed by international development agencies.
‘The smell was enough to give you the DTs.”
Lotta Hitschmanova inspired thousands of USC Canada supporters from coast to coast, many of whom packed clothing for shipment to those in need overseas. Sometimes they volunteered in unusual circumstances, as Lotta’s biographer Clyde Sanger has noted:
From the 1940s to the 1980s, Lotta Hitschmanova inspired thousands of Canadians to empty their pockets to support USC Canada‘s work with the needy in far off lands.
Teenagers were by no means immune to Lotta’s appeals for help, as this small nugget from Clyde Sanger’s biography of Lotta indicates:
Lotta Hitschmanova inspired a legion of loyal volunteers supporting her and USC Canada’s work right across the country. Truro NS was no different in this regard, but they did have one key asset that other communities lacked, as related by Clyde Sanger in his 1986 biography of Lotta:
“Some [USC] branches had certain advantages, like the Truro branch which was just down road from Stanfield’s Ltd., the family woollen and textile firm that has never looked back since the Klondike Gold Rush spread the fame of its unshrinkable underwear across North America. Continue reading
Lotta Hitschmanova was a letter writer extraordinaire. So many times in my travels across the country, individuals have shared with me their joy at having received a personal, hand written note from Lotta, and some have even safe guarded these notes as keepsakes in treasured locations in their homes.
Here is a remarkable, touching letter that Lotta wrote to a friend in Moose Jaw in 1983: Continue reading