Video: Sheryl-Elaine Brazeau tells Lotta’s story

Sheryl-Elaine’s Lotta story has been told in many settings. Her hope is that “it continues to inspire bold, passionate women everywhere.”

In the early 1970s, Sheryl-Elaine Brazeau held one of the most unique positions in all of Canadian society: she was Lotta Hitschmanova’s personal secretary at the office of USC Canada at one of Canada’s most celebrated addresses, 56 Sparks Street in Ottawa.

Four decades later, Sheryl-Elaine had developed her skills to become one of Ottawa’s gifted storytellers. One day, she decided to apply those skills in a unique way – to honour Dr Lotta by crafting an extended story with the title, “The Early Life of Lotta Hitschmanova.” Continue reading

The Clifford quilters – a unique patch of Canadian social history

Members of the Carry on Club at Gramma Jo’s restaurant in Clifford. Front: From left, Esther Hallman and Jean Field. Back: Marion Derbecker, Ruth Anne Cummings, Lynne Nancekivell and Phyllis Kaufman. Photo by Bonnie Whitehead

I came across a remarkable news item recently, in the Wellington Advertiser, a community paper in southwestern Ontario. 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

Celebrating a Canadian “pioneer” on International Women’s Day

“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.

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Little known Lotta facts for a Friday: Did you know? Lotta loved to laugh!

The public image that Dr Lotta Hitschmanova projected to millions of Canadians – through her famous TV and radio ads in the 60s and 70s – was that of a sincere, compassionate, caring, very serious human being.

As I have suggested elsewhere, she was our conscience, our national priest, rabbi and imam, all rolled into one. And yet.

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Special Bank of Canada survey, Update #3: the ultimate paradox, Lotta’s name isn’t well known

Lotta Hitschmanova on a Canadian bank noteFor me, one of the more surprising results of the Bank of Canada’s survey on 12 “bank-notable” women was how few people (29%) recognized Lotta Hitschmanova’s name.

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Mike Myers, Lotta Hitschmanova, and on being Canadian

Mike Myers, Shelagh Rogers, CBC radio photo

“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

“Immigrants make the best Canadians”

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.

David Rain

56 Sparks St – Canada’s most famous address?

56-sparks-photoWhy is it that so many visitors come to Ottawa from across Canada, and after taking a tour of Parliament Hill, they find themselves strolling down the Sparks Street Mall, when all of a sudden, they catch sight of a big door with the number 56 on top of it, their eyes pop out with incredulity, they come to a quick stop and then they start taking souvenir snapshots – to show the folks back home – to prove that there really was, and is, a 56 Sparks Street?

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