Video: Bob Carty celebrating the life of Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova in Word and Song

“I never met Lotta, but I do remember 56 Sparks Street, I do remember that voice.”

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 (now SeedChange) organized a special “Lotta 100” event to honour their founder.

The M.C. for this event was Bob Carty (1950-2014), an award-winning CBC documentary producer and justice-seeking singer-songwriter.

As a tribute to Lotta during his introduction, Carty leads the audience in the singing of his haunting anthem of hope, “Desert Eyes.”

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56 Sparks Street — a new song is born!

A new song is born today, in celebration of the 111th birthday of humanitarian Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova C.C. (1909-1990), who was recently nominated to appear on the new Canadian $5 banknote.

Thanks to her heart-felt TV and radio PSAs in the 1950s through to the 1970s, Lotta single-handedly made 56 Sparks Street in Ottawa the most famous address in Canada.

Happy birthday Lotta! 

Angus Reid banknote survey – what happened to Lotta?

Yesterday, the Angus Reid Institute published survey results asking respondents which of the eight Bank of Canada nominees should appear on our next $5 banknote.

As I have suggested in an earlier article:

All eight are worthy nominees and should be honoured in different ways. That said, two candidates have so much in common that I feel they would make an “ideal couple” to grace our next $5 bill: Lotta Hitschmanova and Terry Fox.

It is no surprise that a high percentage of the Angus Reid survey respondents (57%) would like to see Terry Fox on the next $5 bill. It is, however, very surprising to learn that Lotta scored so very low (9%) on this survey, and even more surprising that “Quebec residents are also more likely than others to choose Lotta Hitschmanova.” Continue reading

Celebrating Lotta’s legion of loyal supporters: Dr. Vernon Burrows, OC (1930-2020)

Canadian plant breeder, Dr. Vernon Burrows, died peacefully in Ottawa on November 8, 2020.

He achieved world renown for his research on oats and was a pioneer in developing hull-less, “naked” oat varieties.

He was also a big fan of Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, who inspired him when he first heard her giving a talk in the 1970s at the Unitarian church in Ottawa.

A year after Lotta’s death in 1990, he honoured her by naming a naked oat variety he had developed: AC Lotta! Continue reading

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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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

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

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