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: 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

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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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)

Was Lotta a feminist? Was she THE international development pioneer?

“Canada has a long-standing commitment to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in the developing world, particularly women and girls.” Justin Trudeau, Feb 4, 2018.

As we celebrate International Development Week (Feb 4 to 10, 2018), let’s give a thought to one of our pioneering women leaders, Lotta Hitschmanova, and the impact she had on her adopted country, Canada, through her humanitarian work during the 1940s to 1980s.

Quite remarkably, as a refugee, she became perhaps the most prominent Canadian woman of her generation. But more than that, she pushed hard for women’s development around the world, well before this became a key approach followed by international development agencies.

“Development often starts with a woman. Support leadership programs for women through the USC, 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa.” Lotta Hitschmanova, 1978.

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