In 2016, the respected journal Canada’s History published a list of 30 great Canadian women. Along with many others, this writer suggested that a celebrated refugee to Canada, Dr Lotta Hitschmanova, might also be included in such a list.
Last week, on International Women’s Day (March 8), Canada’s History has responded by publishing a list of 36 more great women, including Lotta!
“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.
When the Bank of Canada announced its short list of 5 women candidates to appear on a Canadian banknote, I was a bit surprised to read that Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990) wasn’t on the list. I wondered, perhaps I had been mistaken, and Lotta’s story no longer resonated with Canadians to the degree I thought it did.
Recently the Bank of Canada has published the full details of the cross-country survey of 2,000 Canadians who voiced their opinions about the women (including Lotta) who had made it onto the long list of 12 “bank-notable” Canadian women.
In my upcoming series of Lotta56sparks.ca blog posts, I will highlight some of the results of this cross-Canada survey. Here is today’s key finding: Continue reading
She was rejected, but in January 1942, she received the following message in a telegram, as related by Lotta’s biographer, Clyde Sanger:
“Hitschmanova Canadian duration visa granted.”
“To be a refugee, to be without a home, to be without country, to be without friends … you have no more roots, you have no one to turn to.”
Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990) became one of Canada’s most beloved humanitarians and a role model and champion for women’s rights.
Before this, however, Lotta experienced the extreme pain of being uprooted, from her beloved Czech homeland, wandering across Western Europe as a refugee from 1938 to 1942. Continue reading
“What does it mean to be Canadian? Well, for one thing, if you’re of a certain age (Mike Myers is 53), it means you have stored away in your memory banks one of Canada’s most famous addresses, 55 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4 – or was it 56 Sparks?” Continue reading
Here’s a statement Lotta Hitschmanova would have been thrilled to hear: “Immigrants are very enthusiastic about Canada and they are looking forward to take a leadership of the commemorations of our 150th.”
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
Seldom has a newcomer to a country left such a nation-wide legacy as Lotta Hitschmanova has in her adopted land.
Indeed, I have argued that she was a refugee who literally changed Canada, for the better.
Peter Lockyer, who directed Soldier of Peace, Lotta’s film documentary, has reflected on the impact that Lotta and many other newcomers have had and concluded that “immigrants make the best Canadians.”
If you’d like to learn more, or hear Lotta’s voice again, have a viewing of Lockyer’s excellent video, Soldier of Peace.