Who is Lotta Hitschmanova?

November 11, 2020

This woman shortlisted for Canada’s next five dollar bank note is the founder of one of the country’s first humanitarian aid organizations.

Who is Lotta Hitschmanova? This is a photo of her. It shows a portrait of an older woman, smiling toward the camera. She's wearing a military style cap and jacket, with a collared shirt and tie under.

Eight people are shortlisted to be featured on Canada’s next five dollar bank note. On this list among great company, including artist Pitseolak Ashoona and Terry Fox, is Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. Do you know who she is?

Who is Lotta Hitschmanova?

Lotta Hitschmanova was an early Canadian humanitarian. She founded SeedChange in 1945 under the name the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, or USC Canada, to help Europe rebuild after the horrors of World War II. Over decades under her guidance, USC Canada became one of Canada’s first development agencies.

“We are here in this world to help each other and to make this world a better place to live. That is my philosophy of life.”

Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova

Lotta, an outspoken anti-Fascist journalist, WWII refugee and visionary humanitarian, was a force. She dedicated her life to helping people rebuild their lives, working toward equity, and showing a deep respect for the people she sought to support. Her vision and respect are especially evident in her commitment to funding locally-run programs, a value SeedChange maintains to this day. In her unwillingness to send Canadian volunteers overseas into contexts they knew little about, Lotta was very much ahead of her time.

Lotta was charismatic, could captivate listeners with her stories from abroad, and exuded a natural leadership that easily brought people together over a common cause. She led USC Canada from 1945 until 1983. In that time she inspired Canadians to generously donate to support people all around the world, from Europe to India, and Bangladesh to Palestine.

For generations of people in Canada, Dr. Lotta, as she was affectionately called, was a ubiquitous voice on television and radio. Her distinct calls for generosity punctuated Saturday morning cartoons and rang out regularly over the airwaves, making USC Canada’s office at 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa, the most famous address in the country.