Celebrating Lotta’s legion of loyal supporters: John Buss (1923-2012)

“Dr. Lotta and I became very close friends. She was a great human being and worked night and day for years. When she died in 1990, I lost a true friend. She was a living saint, if such a person can exist.” – John Buss

Few Canadians got to know humanitarian Lotta Hitschmanova as well as John Buss, and like Lotta herself, he lived a most remarkable life.

Born and raised in Toronto, at the age of 17, he joined the Canadian Navy, serving in numerous harrowing WWII combat situations. As his friend Allan Martel noted in a Globe and Mail tribute to John Buss:

“He rose to the lowly level of Stoker 2nd Class, which was as near to the bottom of military rankings as one can get. He was not cut out for leadership in the military, though all who had the privilege to work for him would have gone to hell and back several times for him at the drop of a hat.”

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Addendum: Let’s put Lotta on a Stamp!

Today is World Refugee Day and I would like to share a new idea that goes well beyond my original “Let’s put Lotta on a Stamp” idea.

In short, I have proposed to Canada Post that they create an ongoing “Refugees to Canada Who Made a Difference” stamp series, launching this series in 2022 with a commemorative stamp honouring Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova.

You can read the reasons for my proposal below, in correspondence with the Director of Stamp Services:

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Let’s put Lotta on a Stamp!

My sincere thanks go out to the more than 1,300 individuals who signed the “Let’s put Lotta on a Stamp” petition.

I have just written a letter to the Stamp Advisory Committee of Canada Post proposing that a commemorative stamp be made in honour of Lotta Hitschmanova.

I will keep readers updated on any developments, as soon as I learn of them myself.

Here is my letter:

It is my great pleasure to propose to you that a Canadian commemorative stamp be created in the name of Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, CC (1909-1990).

Here are a few of the reasons why I feel Dr. Lotta – as she affectionately came to be known – should be honoured in this way. Continue reading

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

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

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?

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)