“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.”
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:
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 →
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 →
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).
“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.”
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)