Lotta Hitschmanova: What it Means to be a Refugee

“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.

“I became a refugee, I went to Belgium first, and when Belgium was invaded I went into France. And that was at the beginning of the war. And I was in France in Marseilles and outside of Marseilles for two years. And I experienced personally how much it hurts to be hungry.

“To be a refugee, to be without a home, to be without country, to be without friends. And this is something dreadful, dreadful; you have no more roots, you have no one to turn to.

“I fainted from hunger in Marseilles twice, fell in front of a street car and I was very ill. And when I came to Canada I weighed 98 pounds.”

As I have suggested elsewhere, Lotta was a refugee who changed Canada:

Seldom has a refugee had such an impact on Canadian society, and indeed around the world. A reminder that those we help today will be enriching our society, and helping many others tomorrow. The next Lotta Hitschmanova may soon be arriving in Canada. Let’s welcome them.

To read additional quotations of Lotta Hitschmanova, visit the USC Canada website.

David Rain

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