In Memoriam: Gerry Brown, Winnipeg (1919-2018)

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“I remember a slight woman in an olive military suit who held the room spellbound.”

I was saddened recently to find out that Gerry Brown, a long-time fan and supporter of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova, had passed away in Winnipeg at the age of 98.

Gerry was one of USC Canada’s most dedicated volunteers and Board members. She first met Lotta in Vancouver in 1944, and decades later she joined USC’s legendary group of Winnipeg volunteers at Firehall #5.

Here is a biographical note that Gerry wrote in 2012.

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Globe and Mail letter to the editor: “A force for humanity”

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This wonderful testimonial about Lotta Hitschmanova was published today in the Letters section of the Globe and Mail:

Re One Man’s Continuing Quest To Honour A Humanitarian (Jan. 23): The attempts to honour Lotta Hitschmanova on a commemorative postage stamp brought back memories of how she made the Unitarian Service Committee famous in Canada in the years after the Second World War, when so many were trying to survive in brutal circumstances.

I was a high school principal and invited her to address the student body in the late 1970s on one of her cross-country fundraising tours. She was a diminutive figure in her unique uniform and I heard some of the “cool” students snicker as she headed to the stage. She soon had them eating out of her hand, and the student council voted to donate the whole proceeds of the next school dance to the USC. Dr. Lotta was a force for humanity and deserves to be commemorated.

Kerry Johnston, Toronto

Globe and Mail article: “In honour of Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova”

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Photo credit: Dave Chan/Globe and Mail

Sincere thanks to Tu Thanh Ha for his excellent article in the Globe and Mail that features Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, her biographer Clyde Sanger, supporter Bruce Cockburn and myself.

 

He spent a decade in Tanzania, teaching, co-ordinating rural development projects and earning a master’s degree in development studies at the University of Dar es Salaam. “A lot of what Lotta said started to make sense to me,” he said.

It is nice to see the spotlight shone like this on a refugee to Canada who made such an important contribution to her adopted homeland and who connected her new society so deeply to the far corners of the globe.

My hope is that this article will stimulate many others to further explore this fascinating part of Canadian social history.

And of course, launching a campaign to have Lotta’s iconic image on a Canadian postage stamp is now front and centre for 2018!

David Rain

Lotta and her unique uniform bring 2017 to a close

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There are many ways we can celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Toronto author and illustrator Evan Munday has toasted the end of 2017 in a most unique way – by posting an original colour sketch of celebrated humanitarian, Lotta Hitschmanova, in her distinctive green uniform.

Munday saved Lotta for his final drawing of the year in this remarkable #365Canadians project. Bravo!

David Rain

 

 

Video: The Life and Times of Lotta Hitschmanova

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On October 23, 2016, a panel discussion on the life of humanitarian Lotta Hitschmanova was organized by Rev. John Marsh of the Canadian Unitarian and Universalist Historical Society and was filmed by USC Canada at their office at 56 Sparks Street in Ottawa.

Panelists included former USC Canada Board chair Clyde Sanger, also Lotta’s biographer; David Rain, former USC Canada employee, now editor of this Lotta56sparks.ca blog; Joy Thierry Llewellyn, author of “Lotta Hitschmanova: Canada’s ‘Mother Teresa’ with Attitude“, and Kate Green, USC Canada’s program manager for Asia.

Remembering a Soldier of Peace: Dr Lotta Hitschmanova

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A wonderful new book has just been published: 150 Canadian Stories of Peace.

I am honoured that my story about Lotta Hitschmanova – “Remembering a Soldier of Peace“- has been included in this anthology, which was compiled by Gordon Breedyk, Mony Dojeiji, Koozma J. Tarasoff and Evelyn Voigt.


Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990) was a World War II refugee who made a lasting impact on her adopted country and acted as a Canadian ambassador for peace around the world.

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Before there was “Giving Tuesday”, there was Lotta Hitschmanova!

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It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that Lotta was the greatest fundraiser that our country has ever known. Indeed, she wrote the book on fundraising long before there were professional fundraisers, or any fundraising books at all.

Today is November 28th, “Giving Tuesday”, and thousands of Canadians will be responding to fundraising appeals from charities and non-profits across the country.

Coincidentally it is also the 108th anniversary of the birth of Dr Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990), a WWII refugee to Canada who profoundly shaped the society she encountered in her adopted homeland, and indeed, she planted the very seeds for the “Giving Tuesday” that we are celebrating today. Continue reading

Video: Friederike Knabe remembering Lotta

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“A lot of the volunteers I met had met Lotta for the first time in primary school. For their life, they never forgot it. They never forgot Lotta coming to their class, almost to the date when it happened, in ’58 or ’62, whenever it was. It was such an impression on them, that they became volunteers at an early age.”

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 organized a special “Lotta 100” event to honour their founder. Sherry Tompalski and Graham Thompson were on hand and recorded interviews of participants who shared their recollections and stories about Lotta.

Here is the first in this series, an interview with Friederike Knabe.

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What do Céline Dion, Oscar Peterson, Jean Béliveau and Lotta Hitschmanova all have in common?

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What could possibly link together such a diverse group of beloved Canadians: a singer, a pianist, a hockey player and a humanitarian?

Could it be that each became household names far beyond the borders of Canada? That starting from very humble beginnings, each has made an enduring mark in their respective professions? Or might it be the uniforms that both Lotta and Jean Béliveau wore? Continue reading

The Bruce Cockburn – Lotta Hitschmanova connection: “She radiated love and concern”

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Bruce CockburnIn 1995, award-winning singer-songwriter, activist and humanitarian, Bruce Cockburn recalled how he first came to know and admire Dr Lotta in Ottawa: Continue reading