From the 1940s to the 1970s, Lotta Hitschmanova was perhaps the most famous Canadian woman. And yet, few today are aware of her personal story — that she was a Jewish refugee to Canada who in turn spent decades helping Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria.
[NB: the Middle East photos in this article were all taken by Lotta’s photographer friend, John Buss, and were published in 1970 in “The USC Story: A Quarter Century of Loving Service by the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, 1945-1970.”]
Amidst the horrors of the unimaginable death and destruction in Israel and Palestine, and the grieving and the fear, and the anger and the hatred, I find myself reaching out for the spirit of one of Canada’s most beloved humanitarians, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990).
Why turn to Lotta, you say? She’s been dead for three decades. What could she possibly offer us today in these troubled times?
The answer lies in her own personal history, which was filled with heart-wrenching tragedy, despair and hopelessness. And we have to ask: how did Lotta manage to overcome her own feelings of grief, fear and anger? And how could she manage to channel these very same emotions, away from hatred, and towards compassion, kindness and love for all peoples around the world, and especially the Middle East? Continue reading