Lotta Hitschmanova: As Others Remember Her

We've gathered some stories and reminiscences recounted by people who knew or remembered Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We hope you enjoy them.

And they called her The Atomic Mosquito” ….

Stuart Keate writes [1984]: “We referred to her as ‘The Atomic Mosquito’. She cut a dashing figure in newsrooms and rode herd on her newspaper friends. She examined copy closely – both editorial and art – and did not hesitate to chastise editors if her beloved USC was consigned to the inside pages of the paper.”

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

And we all knew the leader….

Lotta was a wonderful person – wonderful for her commitment and for her passion. She showed us all that anyone can make a difference just by pushing ahead to do so. I met her when she would show her excellent slides in Vancouver. I think I joined the Unitarian Church thinking in large measure that what the USC was doing gave the Unitarian Church its own small OXFAM, and we all knew the leader! It is wonderful that she is being honoured. (JM)

An angel to all orphans (from India)….

She was a wonderful LADY, I could say that she is an Angel to all Orphan and other children on this planet. We were 15 children in that orphanage and all the children were sponsored by the members of USCOC of Canada. Dr Lotta H Manova used to visit us once in year to see how we were doing and she used to spend two days with us. We (all children) always kept her busy & happy by singing songs and playing little games in our Orphanage home. I studied hard during my schooling and I have obtained 1st class marks in my final year Higher Secondary school. I have completed my medicine in the year 1976 and did my internship from 1976-1977. Then I started my own general practice. God Bless you and USC. (NC)

Are you an army organization?….

I have a question: what uniform is Dr Lotta wearing? When I was younger I thought the USC was some army organization (!!!) I know better now. (SM)

Auntie Codfish….

Lotta, while still in Europe, undertook a project wherein she distributed codfish oil, which helped restore malnourished children of Europe. This was one of the sad side effects in evidence by the end of World War II. Due to her Herculean efforts, she was dubbed “Auntie Codfish”. Her valiant spirit lives on, in USC Canada where creative projects give the destitute an opportunity to improve their lives through self-help projects. (EW)

Auschwitz, another soul has a name ….

I met Dr. Hitschmanova as a young reporter for Radio-Canada, doing hour-long interviews that were aired on the cultural band. As so many, I became a friend. She told me about her past, knowing my father was Polish, had experienced the war and that we came to Canada as refugees.

Recently, visiting the extermination camp at Auschwitz where I have been working as an artist for the past 15 years, I was struck to the core. In the suitcase room that I had seen so many times, I suddenly paid attention to the first suitcase at the very left of the pile in the showcase. On it, in the standard white lettering used on all suitcases, the name was that of her mother Else Hitschmann, Prag II, Sokolska 36 – the same home address of the family given by Clyde Sanger on p. 12 of his biography “Lotta”.

Now when I walk the fields of the camp and see the ashes coming out of the earth, another soul has a name. (MM)

BC students danced through the night for Lotta ….

Canadians responded in their different ways. Students at Argyle Secondary School in North Vancouver raised $1,650 in a ten-hour dance marathon… [1972]

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

Bruce Cockburn, from USC’s 1995 Annual Report ….

When I was a child, maybe ten years old, in the era when air raid drills were a regular part of the public school curriculum, and we were invited to take shelter from the feared nuclear conflagration by huddling under our desks, I first met Lotta Hitschmanova. She came to my classroom and told us about refugee children. She wore an old uniform, like an army nurse, and she radiated love and concern.

When I was twenty-five, I received my first significant amount of money I’d earned in my life – royalties from radio play of my first album. It felt like such a godsend that it seemed appropriate to share it with those less lucky. My wife said that her mother had a good friend who spent her time helping those in need – who ran an organization called the Unitarian Service Committee. This was an agency devoted to helping victims of war and natural disaster in many parts of the world….one which was committed to ensuring that people’s donations were spent on the work at hand and not to support a swollen bureaucracy or large ad campaigns. This sounded good to me so I became a donor. Before long I met my then mother-in-law’s friend – a short woman, in a uniform reminiscent of an army nurse’s, who radiated love and concern. It was Lotta. The USC was twenty-five.

Now we’re fifty. The world has learned that hiding under desks is not an effective response to the nuclear threat. We have begun to learn that our physical security depends, not so much on weapons or the defence against them, as on the eradication of hunger and ignorance – of the fear which privilege carries with it – of the rage and desperation that comes with poverty.

It became evident to the USC that it is vital not just to offer aid to famine victims or those displaced by war, because the same misfortunes keep recurring. We have to address the systemic causes of the problem. So began programs of literacy and other kinds of training designed to offer the poor of the world the means to become self-sufficient….that is, development at the community level.

We’ve made a lot of friends over the years. Friends at home and in some places on the earth where life is very hard. It’s been my privilege to play a small part in that process. We have to keep it growing. As we feel the pinch of collapsing economies in the developed world, think how it must be for those whose options are already so limited. Please be generous in your support. The need is ever more urgent.

Canadian farmers responded too….

Her skills in communication were many-sided. She could talk to young children as effectively as she did to elderly farmers, who offered her boxcars of wheat and remembered the USC in their wills.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

Cheers for knowing other cultures….

[I sponsored two children at an orphanage in France, La Maison des Enfants.....] I wrote to both children weekly, sent a photo of our family. Later the children told us they kept the photo of our family under their pillows and with the help of older people managed to answer all my letters. We sent gifts at Christmas time and birthdays to “our” “children”, but later the other two were just as interested in us. When they were 17 and 15, we asked if they might be allowed to visit our campsite at Crescent Beach, BC. So it was fortunate I found two bicycles that fit them. So along with our little dog, the brother and sister had a wonderful introduction to Canada in summer time. They went with my husband to collect wild blackberries and to watch him make wild blackberry jam….So cheers for knowing other cultures! (JH)

CIDA president heard Lotta in Sunday school….

The same was true of Margaret Catley-Carlson, president of the CIDA. She grew up in Nelson, BC and says: “I used to get taken to Sunday school to hear her.”

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

The condo that sorted clothes….

The condo I live in in Ottawa was a regular supporter of USC through donations of clothes. I got involved this way, then when it proved too expensive to send clothing any more, I became a donor. Our condo had such a good reputation for sorting the clothing appropriately, that USC just sent the clothing straight overseas, there was no need to sort it a second time! (SH)

Determined to combat inequality….

Some decades, back, I recall that when I worked in Ottawa, as part of a small but ambitious photographic/editorial business, I enjoyed an annual visit from a diminutive but very memorable person who was campaigning to change the world. Lotta came to our office once each year to arrange for a fresh personal portrait – a picture to be used in an annual campaign mounted by the organization that she founded, and which survived and flourished through her dedication and inspiration. I am humbled by her memory. I am honoured that her successors carry on in the same certain spirit, determined to combat the inequality that thrives when and where poverty prevails. My enclosed contribution is a modest one but I know that you will make it count in the world of today and the world of tomorrow. (PS)

Dr Seuss was a real hit….

I first got involved with USC as a student, in 1953. Lotta came to the university and there was an announcement that she was looking for knitters. Lotta came to my house one time – I had 5 children – and was introduced to Dr Seuss. She was so taken by the stories that apparently she went back to Ottawa and bought the whole set! (MS)

A dynamic speaker….

We had the pleasure of knowing Dr Lotta personally, through our membership in the Unitarian Church of Edmonton, which she visited on a regular basis in the 1960s. She was a very dynamic speaker and a warm person. (BK)

Edmonton in the 1940s….

Dr. Hitschmanova visited the Pembina Hall student residence in 1948-49 when I attended the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Her plan of helping the unfortunate following the war impressed me then and the same plan to address situations in Africa, Asia and Latin America continues to impress me. The use of money for education and training of individuals in ways to help themselves in their own areas is the only sensible way. The pride that follows cannot be measured. (VK)

The family she never had ….

These young people in France and Korea, India and Bangladesh, were indeed the family of her own she never had. And she succeeded magnificently in helping bring them up and leading them to self-development.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

Flying with Lotta in ‘61….

We will always remember Dr Lotta. One cold evening in Nov 1961, I was with my two children (5 and almost 7) in the Toronto airport en route to Ottawa where their father had been transferred earlier. After a long trip from our home in Vernon in the sunny Okanagan we were tired and cold. Dr Lotta began to speak to the children and as we boarded the smaller plane to Ottawa, it was Dr Lotta who helped me and the children board the aircraft. She took my son to sit with her and kept him entertained on the flight to Ottawa. Ever after that trip whenever my son saw Dr Lotta on TV he would call me to tell me, “Mum, there’s Dr Hitschmanova.” We have never forgotten her. (MB)

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan….

I can remember her voice so distinctly on the CBC radio noon program that my parents listened to in very rural Saskatchewan where I grew up. As a small child I conjured up my own images of her work and was amazed how her work continued to influence me in the years that my husband and I lived and worked in Africa, South East Asia and Pakistan. (HW)

He first learned about the Third World from Lotta.…

Neill McKee, who went with CUSO to Malaysia and then joined the IDRC as its film-maker, says: “That voice was part of my growing up in Elmira, Ontario. I first learnt anything about the Third World from her.”

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

Her passion and humility….

I had the honour of meeting Dr Lotta in 1980 or 81 when she came to Quebec City. I was working as a reporter for our local English community newspaper and was invited to a USC organizer’s home where she was hosting a get-together for Dr. Lotta. We were a small group and I got to spend some time talking with Dr Lotta. I was struck by her passion for her beloved cause and of course by her warmth and humanity. She was very humble about all that she had accomplished. It was a very moving experience and I think of it every year when I send off my donation to the USC. (PC)

Her whole life was USC….

Lotta’s whole life was USC. She visited the projects around the world every year, and she could report to Canadians on the children they had adopted in the developing world. She knew it all first hand and so enraptured people with her stories. (JM)

Hoping for rain on Tuesday….

My mother packed clothes in our church along with other women for shipment overseas. This was in the very early days of USC. Their packing day was always Tuesday and my mother faithfully never failed to attend. But she was an avid gardener and during the months of gardening weather, she really hated to do her duty and pack clothes on a beautiful gardening day. She did, however, but always hoped Tuesday would be a rainy day. (SG)

How I acquired a new sewing machine….

I lived in Edmonton, Alberta many years ago, when Lotta Hitschmanova was alive. This would be after World War II. Occasionally I would encounter her when I was downtown shopping, and she always greeted me with a smile. At that time there was a USC project which entailed contributing worn-out long underwear. Folks could procure the suits from the USC depot. We were given patterns so that we could make baby undershirts, by using a sound portion. My sewing machine had no zig zag feature, I had to hand-sew the hems. This is how I acquired a newer machine! (EW)

How did Lotta recruit such devoted supporters? ….

How did Dr Lotta manage to recruit such people to do these tough jobs for years on end? David Smith says: “Once you were thanked by Dr Hitschmanova, you came back to do more.”

Christine Appleton, who had been housebound for months with a new baby when she first heard Dr Lotta speak in Moose Jaw in 1958, says: “That night I was glad I didn’t have fifty dollars in my pocket. It would all have gone to her. She made you grateful you had a roof and three meals a day.”

Lorraine Cameron, who was a summer volunteer before becoming projects officer in 1978, remembers that “as the tour organizer in Hamilton in 1977, I was downcast when only a dozen people came to public meetings. But she was never upset. If she got to a few new people, or reinforced the faithful a bit, that was enough.”

Hazel Woodward has a similar explanation: “A great thing about her was that she never looked down on anyone’s effort. She was always enthusiastic and the immediate person’s effort was the most important to her. Our first meeting [in Victoria] raised only $80 from 25 people, but she was delighted.”

And Dorothy Legge describes how she and Eva Munroe in Truro first got hooked by the agency in 1957. After deciding that a list of baby garments for UNRWA layettes was incomplete, as given in the Family Herald, “we wrote to the USC to say so. We got a letter back, explaining it all. That was the start. Once you’re on their list, they never let you be!”

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

How she spent her year….

Lotta didn’t fundraise all winter and go overseas in the summer. It was a fall fundraising campaign beginning in September and ending early December. She left for overseas after Christmas and was away approximately two and a half months visiting at one time 13 countries, returning to Victoria in the spring where she spent three weeks writing her reports. She came back to Ottawa in May to approve the first rough cut of the films and commercials when they were made in-office and spent the remainder of the summer in campaign preparations. During this period she also took her summer holiday with her sister. I can’t remember if she took two or three weeks. (PM)

I heard Lotta in Toronto, then in India ….

I had heard her speak at my high school, Havergal College [in Toronto], in the 50’s. [I later] went to India with Canadian Overseas Volunteers (COV, later to join with CUSO) and heard Dr. Hitschmanova was coming to a village near me, Ghataprabha. So I went to meet her, early in 1963. The result of this meeting was the COV group had their get together for the year at Ghataprabha….My one emotional remembrance was that meeting “Lotta” was a very special contact for all of us. (CB)

I remember that voice….

I’ve given to USC as far back as 1985 or earlier from mailings and TV ads and I remember that same voice on TV which said “Please give to the Unitarian Service Committee, 56 Sparks St, Ottawa, Ontario” almost 20 years ago. I would like my donation to go to the new country, Timor Leste. (HS)

I suppose it’s my organization too….

In the 50s or 60s, I heard of “Dr Lotta”, and felt her methods of helping others to be the best of any then trying to help the “far distant worlds.” An elderly friend in Waterdown, Ontario was also knitting garments and making clothing to send to Dr Lotta for children and babies. I had sent donations from the time I was in late teens or early 20s, but then I had a new – and more to my financial and preferable way to help. I did receive a letter or two from Dr. Lotta over the years. I also tried to send memorial donations when a friend or relative died. Over many years, other worthwhile organizations have become recipients of memorial donations, often at the request of next of kin. I would like to make larger and more regular donations as I still believe that your organization (and I suppose mine too) is still the one that does the most with what they receive. (SP)

It was a privilege to have known her ….

It seems very appropriate that in this year of honouring Dr. Hitschmanova, I am forwarding this cheque as a bequest from the estate of [my late husband] Morrey to the Lotta Hitschmanova Legacy Fund. A rather fitting remembrance of them both, I feel. In the early 1950s [we] were living in Dalhousie, NB and were invited to hear someone speaking on the plight of post war refugees. That evening is still so very clear in my mind. Our first sight of diminutive Dr. Lotta in her smart uniform made quite an impression! When she began to speak, in her distinctive accent, the impact she made was overwhelming. We became staunch supporters of her and the USC on the spot. Lotta was a wonderful and unique person and it was a privilege to have known her. (Shirley Cross, Ottawa)

I was her chauffeur….

The last time Dr Lotta was in Thunder Bay (1971), I had the privilege of driving her around the city for appointments. It was awesome! I can’t remember when I first got involved with USC but remember when we made the “pocket” quilts stuffed with cut up nylon panty-hose. Also had a foster child in Korea until USC was no longer needed there. (CM)

I was hungry….

Thank you for reminding me of sister Lotta. “I was hungry and you fed me.” (AH)

I was spellbound….

Dr Lotta has been an inspiration to me since the late forties when I was a young mother living on a shoestring in Nobel Ont, when she organized the powdered milk campaign for the starving European children. I sent my children’s outgrown clothes and knit sweater sets for them because we were so fortunate. One day I saw an announcement in the Brampton paper that she was coming to speak at a meeting to be held at Peel Manor, which I definitely had to attend. When she shook my hand I was spellbound by this tiny, radiant lady in her green uniform. She and her young helper showed us a film of their work in Lesotho and the smiling faces of the people there. One of the ladies in the audience was sure she recognized a quilt she had made with a teddy bear poking out of the pocket she had sewn on it. We all sat at tables and tied quilts. I’ll never forget it. She made us so appreciative. When her book was published in 1986, I requested it for Christmas and read it from cover to cover. What an amazing person! I continued to crochet blankets at work (one square per coffee break) and sewed them together at home until it became too costly to ship goods overseas, and a craft shop was opened in Toronto, and money donations were sent instead. I was so saddened to hear of her illness and eventual death. We lost an incredible lady and I feel honoured to be a small part of her ministry. (EG)

It couldn’t have happened without them….

Certainly, when I interviewed Dr. David B. Smith, a research biochemist who was USC national chairman from 1956 to 1965, his first inclination was to recall the 1950s when he was in charge of the contingent of packing crews [for clothing that had been sorted]. With all the technical relish of a captain of engineers describing how his company threw a Bailey bridge across the Rhine, David Smith explains how his crews of four men worked the baling machine which the Ottawa Board of Education had used for wastepaper before selling it to the USC: two of them cranking down a piston with a two-meter lever, the others crimping the steel tapes round the jute sacking with metal clips … Three times a month, from a list of seventy volunteers who included Doug Fullerton, the future chairman of the National Capital Comission, Smith had to find a captain and crew.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

A Korean connection….

For a number of years, in the 1960s and 1970s, we “adopted” a child, always a girl, through the USC program. The longest lasting adoption was a girl being cared for in an orphanage in Korea. Even after this girl and her sister left the orphanage together, we kept in touch, through a Korean friend of ours translating letters for us. Eventually, after much “red tape”, and after the girls were of the age of majority, and could make their own decisions, we sponsored them and they came to live with us in 1981. Within a few years, they both married and established families of their own. A great happiness for them was finding their older brother in Korea through the Korean family reunification initiative. He was able to establish their actual birthdates and the fact that they were indeed his sisters. They have visited him in Korea and he’s visited them in Canada. (JV)

Lotta almost left USC in 1951….

Dr Lotta herself was feeling the strain. During 1951, she certainly contemplated leaving the USC, for she filled in an application form for the job of director of information in the department of National Health and Welfare. And at the 1952 annual meeting, she asked for the early appointment of an assistant director, who could undertake most of the travelling and fund raising for at least a year. “After doing the job of at least two full-time people for 6 ½ years, my physical strength and resistance have diminished to the point where I feel I must spend at least one year mostly in Ottawa…”

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

Lotta believed in self-reliance ….

Throughout her years as executive director, she remained deeply concerned with the welfare and training of young people. The medallion figure of her bending over some scrap of a child with a bowl held out has become almost her stamp, but feeding and affection was always only a first step in helping them to a school, to a skill, to some level of self-reliance. It is wrong to think of her at any time as simply giving relief aid. The motherliness in her made her enjoy enormously the welcomes she received from the youngsters at children’s homes, but she expressed a more profound joy when the children left these homes with assured jobs.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

Lotta got out her stopwatch ….

Once, when a visitor from British Columbia came in, Dr Lotta called [Shirley Plowman] up the length of the room and told her to write a “brilliant” thirty-second radio spot within one minute – and got out a stopwatch. Shirley went back to her desk with sweaty palms but managed to get the completed script back to Dr Lotta while the watch was still running. She recalled mildly: “I was impressed that she thought I could do it. She brought out the excellence in everyone…”

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

Montreal in the 1940s….

A few times, 1947-1948, when I was a McGill student in Montreal, I used to go to ladies’ work parties in the Unitarian Church on Sherbrooke West to help prepare used clothing for overseas. Dr Lotta Hitschmanova visited these groups as they worked. I remember Dr Lotta’s humanitarianism after all these years. Also in the 1950s Dr Hitschmanova was invited and did attend a meeting of our Beta Sigma Phi Sorority in Brooks AB. We may have made her an honourary member of the local, but I cannot remember. (BC)

My mother introduced me to Lotta….

My mother, now gone nearly 20 years, was always interested in Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova so I continue to carry on her interest in Dr. Hitschmanova’s work. Besides I am a farmer at heart and interested in farming wherever. (DM)

Nineteen daily newspapers ran Christmas appeals ….

The newspaper appeals became a major source of funds for the USC. Stuart Keate, who launched them when he was publisher of the Victoria Times, estimates that together the FP papers raised more than $1 million. He wrote recently [1984]:

“I remember very well my first interview with Lotta. Who could forget her, in the olive-green uniform and ribbons? She told me about her campaign. I was looking for a worthy Christmas project and told Lotta we would support her campaign, via the news columns, listing the names of all donors and taking care of all the operational expenses, so that the money raised was guaranteed to the fund, down to the last cent…

“Our campaign was so successful, other publishers and editors began to express interest. I think Cleo Mowers of the Lethbridge Herald was the next to sponsor an appeal. Our owner Max Bell was very supportive and brought in the Calgary Albertan. In due course Dick Malone of the Winnipeg Free Press, Norman Smith and John Grace of the Ottawa Journal came in. When the Globe and Mail joined the FP group, chairman Howard Webster, and later the publisher, James Cooper, lent its considerable prestige.”

The scheme spread beyond the eight important papers in the FP group, and in a peak year as many as nineteen Canadian dailies were running a Christmas appeal for the USC.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

An old dentist’s chair….

In Ottawa, an old dentist’s chair was once donated to USC for Korea. To the amazement of the volunteers who received it, they discovered cocaine tablets and morphine ampules, probably dating back to World War I. The chair was likely used as part of a field hospital from WWI. (KL)

Packing clothes on Elgin Street….

Older members (mostly women) of the congregation have told me stories of the days when Lotta founded USC and turned the basement of that old stone building on Elgin St. into a USC office, clothes depot, work/storage room, etc. I have a mental picture of the women of the congregation spending endless hours sorting and mending clothes, and packing and shipping it to countries that Lotta was focused on at the time. (EB)

Part of our cultural fabric….

Her television ads with exhortations to send donations to 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa were a constant reminder of need and responsibility. They were also so omnipresent they became part of our cultural fabric.

Passing the basket in Niagara….

Lotta once came to speak in St Catharines in the 60s or 70s and only 10 people showed up, but they passed a basket around at the end of her talk and she had raised $700! (DP)

Pierre Trudeau, on Lotta receiving the 1983 Rotary Award for World Understanding ….

I am sure the spiritual rewards you have received from a life of selfless service to others are plentiful…It is also most appropriate that [this award] is one which gives to others the opportunity to build a better future for themselves.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

The smell was enough to give you the DTs….

There are occasional horror stories about working conditions, or life in the trenches, as in Victoria where, as Hazel Woodward explains, the packing at one stage was done in an ex-winery: ‘The smell was enough to give you the DTs. There wasn’t water laid on, but it came through the skylights and ran down the middle of the floor. We wore rubber boots and stood in the pallets. We laughed at it. You have to have a sense of humour, like a teacher or a parson, or you’re dead.” Dr Lotta bullied the mayor of Victoria into providing better quarters, and then the group found a welcome in a firehall.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

She brought out the leadership qualities in women ….

Before many other agencies, she was particularly concerned with the improvement of the position of women….I doubt that Dr Lotta would ever have described herself as a feminist at any stage of her life….But it is intriguing that the staff she worked with in Ottawa for 25 years were all female, that most of the USC representatives she chose in Asia were women … and that a surprisingly high number of project leaders were also women. As well, the USC branches and working groups across Canada were mostly women, while men cheerfully headed for the background and basement where the packing cases were. It is not that men found it difficult to work with such a strong-willed ascetic woman….Rather, it seems to have been an instinctive desire on her part to bring out the leadership qualities she knew were in so many talented women she met, and an intuition that their ideas on human development would match her own.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

She declined with thanks….

Dr Lotta, on her yearly cross-Canada tours, would regularly reach our city, Victoria, BC, in late November, and we would go to hear her speak at the Empress Hotel (which gave her a free venue). Somehow we learned that her birthday often coincided with her arrival in Victoria, and one year we invited her to have dinner at our house in honour of the occasion. She declined with thanks. We pointed out that she would presumably be eating supper somewhere else anyway, to which her answer was that, yes, but she would only be having a sandwich or so – while she caught up on her paperwork! (HQ)

She knitted 3 sweaters on the flight from Ottawa to Vancouver….

And Marjorie Woods, who was blind and deaf, knitted 1000 sweaters. She was awarded the Order of Canada – and knitted three more on the return flight from Ottawa to Vancouver! It was Dr Lotta’s dedication, symbolized partly by her uniform, that inspired knitters and newspaper people alike.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

She touched my very soul….

Many years ago in Ottawa I was walking home from work thinking of my troubles and family worries. It was then I saw Lotta coming toward me and she gave me such a radiant smile which touched my very soul and lifted my spirits. I felt so much better. Being able to do that to someone she didn’t even know categorizes her as a great soul who helped everyone she met in a very real and lasting way. Her work and memory live on in the work of the USC. God bless you all. (CT)

She never failed to inspire….

I remember Dr Lotta well. My late husband and I were members of the London branch of the USC, helping to pack clothes to send overseas. We often drove to Courtright, to speak to others about the worldwide need and the work of the USC. She never failed to inspire people to do what they could to help. (AW)

She really did make a difference….

The talk last Sunday brought back memories of Lotta’s visits to Montreal. My memories are now a bit hazy, but when I moved from the downtown church to the Lakeshore Unitarian church in 1965, Charles Eddis urged me to get involved with the USC branch. This was the first time I had done any volunteer work. In the late 1960s, I helped plan and host Lotta’s visits to Montreal. I suppose the visits to Montreal followed the pattern of her other Canadian branches – a talk during the Sunday service; a meeting with the branch members and Lotta’s encouragement and appreciation to continue. I enjoyed her company – perhaps my inexperience in the field was a handicap to her, but she was always firmly in charge and tactful. I do remember being panicked when one year she asked me to have a small Indian music group to play at a gathering at the church downtown, but we found one. For me it was a great learning experience in many ways, and I was honoured to know someone who really did make a difference in the world. (JA)

She seemed “saintly”….

I first met Dr. Lotta at the Unitarian Church in Vancouver in the 1960s and was very impressed. She seemed “saintly”. I have been contributing ever since. (GW)

She was a lovely lady….

I had the honour of meeting Dr Lotta in Ottawa away back in 1949 or 1950 before I moved West. She was a lovely lady and my impressions of her are happy ones. Since then it has been a pleasure to send as much as my budget (for a retiree) will allow. Good wishes to all of you at USC who are carrying on her tradition of such worthwhile work. Sometime when I get to Ottawa again, I’d like to drop in to your office. (GW)

She was always available….

I remember Dr Lotta very well. Every time I would be in Ottawa and visit 56 Sparks St – she was always available to say hello. I was more than pleased to help USC during those years. Now I can help with a little financial help, as my husband and I are on a small pension. But our thoughts of your help to so many in need are fond. (GD)

She was genuine….

Many years ago, Dr Lotta visited Vancouver, and my friend and I journeyed across the inlet to listen to her. We were both very impressed by her genuine enthusiasm and dedication, and I have tried ever since to respond to all appeals as much as I can, because I know that she was, and USC is, GENUINE. (ML)

So many have borrowed her ideas….

I am in my mid 90s now…. I’d like you to know I’ve had a close association with the Hitschmanova activities over many years. We did have a very active group here on your behalf in the days we had a group working for helping the 3rd world, in the local Unitarian Church. Now so many agencies have borrowed Dr Lotta’s ideas and some put them in action, as she certainly did. So many agencies now have the 3rd world in their sights. I suspect most (unknowingly) have copied Lotta’s ideas. She was not a theorist, but action always. (JH)

The stewardess uniforms….

A donation of dozens of stewardess uniforms was once received by USC in Ottawa. Lotta carefully reminded everyone that no stewardess suits (which were quite attractive) were to leak out of the storage room – they were all to be shipped to Korea! (KL)

Striving for self-sufficiency in food producation ….

The response to the famine in Bihar [India, in 1967] – relief supplies first, followed by the farsighted establishment of the Ranchi agricultural training center and the follow-up work of extension with tribal farmers – was the agency’s next major effort in what is now acknowledged as the first priority of rural development: self-sufficiency in food production. That may seem belated recognition of a prime need, and slow action upon it. But one should remember, that several years after Ranchi was set up, the Canadian International Development Agency was giving such a low priority to simulating food production in developing countries that only 3 percent of its government-to-government budget in 1973 was being allocated to this sector.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

A tireless worker….

We were working in Ottawa 1949-1962 and remember about her work – as a tireless worker – resulting in worthwhile help to so many people. (CJ)

Truro ladies made shawls from underwear seconds….

“Some [USC] branches had certain advantages, like the Truro branch which was just down the road from Stanfield’s Ltd., the family woollen and textile firm that has never looked back since the Klondike Gold Rush spread the fame of its unshrinkable underwear across North America. Dorothy Legge, who started the Truro group in 1957, used to get lots of high quality seconds from the factory and also wool at a dollar a pound (about two dollars a kilogram) from the ‘sweepings.’” Her friends would knit them into shawls for Greek women after the earthquakes or into sweaters for Korean children. On one March day in 1958, Miss Legge organized a clothing drive for Korea around Truro and collected over three hundred kilograms. She also kept in touch with dry cleaners, who let her have garments that had not been claimed for two years. ‘Better clothes then, all wool’, she says.”

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

Vancouver in the 1940s….

As a nursing student at UBC in 1947, I attended a lunch time meeting at which Dr Lotta spoke. I was so touched by her compassion, honesty and enthusiasm. I have contributed ever since and I am 81 yrs old now. It is one of the few charitable organizations I trust to help people help themselves. PS I also sewed and sent boxes of clothes. (RM)

The Vice-regal suite, at 30 dollars a day ….

In Victoria, the manager of the Empress Hotel once put on an exasperated air with Dr Lotta because she insisted on staying at a minor hotel. “I can’t afford more than thirty dollars a day,” she replied. The following year the Empress offered her a section of the vice-regal suite – at thirty dollars a day – and the arrangement ran for years. The manager, Ted Balderson, says: “We might as well change the sheets there as elsewhere.”

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

The VW was packed to the gills….

I know that the Lakeshore church in Pointe Claire, Quebec was very involved as I was part of the involvement. We collected, washed, mended and packed clothing for a number of years. I used to go with our VW bus to church sales and pick up all the left over used clothing. Sometimes there was just room for me to get into the van and drive it using the outside mirrors to see. Besides all the packing, there were a number of women who knitted for children and others who made baby items, and these were brought to the church to be included in the boxes. As Pointe Claire is quite a large pharmaceutical manufacturing area, donations were given to USC. These did not go to the church but came to our house as it was felt that they would be safe there until picked up to be flown to the destination point. The church school made quilts to send to Korea, lots of fun and involved more than the children. Fathers using sewing machines were a great hit with the kids. (HB)

Was Toscanini the reason USC went into Italy? ….

In 1949, USC Canada also moved into Italy at the request (according to an apocryphal story) of Maestro Arturo Toscanini, who was then based in New York.

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

We gave her a donation in Korea….

I first met Dr Lotta when she addressed our Unitarian fellowship in Oshawa, Ontario – this would have been sometime in the late 1970s. Some years later she was in Korea on a field trip at a time when my husband and I were also there. We were able to meet her at one of the USC supported rehab centres in Seoul and we made our donation in person at the same time. I still have photos of that encounter. (AC)

We had to visit 56 Sparks! ….

As a young girl I grew up hearing and seeing Lotta on TV and the address given at the end of her commercial was 56 Sparks Street Ottawa. When I moved to Ottawa, this was the first “land mark” I went to go see. A year later my brother came to see me – this was the first place I took him too. I know this may not seem like much to you guys, but to us it was very special. I suppose as kids she made an impression on us that lasted till we grew up and still does. Cheers! (HC)

We met her each year at the Empress Hotel….

We have sponsored several children in India and Africa over the years through the USC. My memory of Dr Lotta is meeting her each year at the Empress Hotel here in Victoria and to be amazed at the distances she travelled each year, but more especially her incredible interest and memory of each child. I only had to mention the name and country and she immediately told me of her last meeting with the child and all up to date news. She was a wonderful woman and I am honoured to have known her and only wish there more like her in the world today. (PH)

We share the same birthday….

Dr Lotta was born on November 28, 1909. I was born on November 28, 1927. Her cradle stood in Prague – mine in Hamburg. Similarities do not end quite here. Dr Lotta fled her home and suffered through the terrors of World War II. I lived under Nazi terror, and witnessed in July 1943 the destruction of Hamburg through “carpet bombing.” I came in 1951 as an immigrant to Canada. In 1969 I heard Dr Lotta speak in Kamloops (BC). Her electrifying personality, her sincerity, her demanding appeal caught fire. Since then, I have supported USC projects. During the early years we collected and packed clothing for overseas shipping. During 1970s and 1980s I was the contact person for USC in Peterborough and Pembroke. I am pleased and appreciative of your plans for a 100th Lotta celebration. My best wishes for your ongoing work, and thanks to your dedicated staff. (AD)

What to do with donated clothing too ragged to send overseas? ….

Here’s a titbit about my mother and USC. You may find this hard to believe, but when people donated clothing that was too old or too ragged to send overseas, my mother brought them home, washed them and wore them herself for gardening! If a high school friend came home with me, I didn’t want them to go out into our large garden because of what my mother might be wearing!!!! Of course, teenagers get embarrassed so easily! And the joke of it is that my father owned his own business with 4 branch offices in other cities, and we lived in a posh neighbourhood of Toronto! (SG)

Why did she wear that uniform?….

It has been my pleasure to have supported USC Canada for many years. I’ve very much admired Dr Lotta Hitschmanova and the work she committed her life to. There is something I’ve wondered about. What is the significance of the uniform she wore? PS I’m especially pleased to read that organic farming is being promoted. (GW)

Why I support USC….

It’s a long time ago but I think it was Lotta Hitschmanova and the work she was doing. It is the empirical work on sustainable & indigenous plant varieties that keeps my interest. (RD)

Willing to speak at 7am!….

In 1967, I organized a speakers’ bureau as a staff member of the Centennial Commission’s development program. We contacted every service club in Canada – I trained returned overseas workers to match speaking engagements in their community. Dr Lotta was the only one willing to go to Victoria to a service club who met at 7am!! At the time, I was awestruck by this incredible woman! (VK)

Read 3702 times Last modified on Saturday, 01 March 2014 19:21

LottaHitschmanova tbnWhat's in a Name?

We’re called USC Canada because we started out way back in 1945 as the Unitarian Service Committee, founded by the energetic Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We’re still planting the seeds that Lotta sowed. Find out more about our founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova.



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