Pozzer, the Hamilton Spectator
Hanna Newcombe, with portraits of
herself and late husband Allan, isn't
abandoning her peace efforts.
Hanna Newcombe has every reason to be puffed up with
pride for her work in the cause of world peace.
There are several plaques in her Dundas home summing
up her considerable accomplishments in the pursuit of
peace, freedom and justice.
But these accolades don't give her much comfort when
she reads the morning headlines: the latest terrorist
attacks, an emerging genocide in Sudan and the deaths of
over 100 children at a school in Russia.
"I feel like a failure because I haven't
achieved world peace," she said in an interview,
recalling over 40 years as a peace researcher and
activist with the Peace Research Institute -- Dundas.
"But not a total failure," she added with a
"I guess it's better to fail at a big task than
succeed at a small task."
Financial problems mean the 82-year-old grandmother
will close the institute for good on Nov. 30.
The library has been passed on to a peace research
institute in Sweden.
But she's not about to completely abandon her peace
With the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical
weapons, the stakes remain just too high.
"Humankind invented war.
"It can disinvent it," she said, quoting
anthropologist Margaret Mead.
She has been involved with the non-profit institute
since it was founded in Oakville in 1961.
She has been operating from her brick bungalow since
it transferred into Dundas in 1976.
Apart from editing academic journals for the
institute, she taught a peace course at York University
for 11 years and helped run a peace research summer
school on Grindstone Island in Rideau Lake near Ottawa.
An admirer of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Newcombe
has also taken her beliefs to the street in
demonstrations and peace marches.
She's self-effacing by nature but the plaques speak
In 1987, the United Nations proclaimed Newcombe a
"peace messenger ... in recognition of a
significant contribution to the programs and objectives
of the International Year of Peace."
In 1988, she and her late husband, Allan Newcombe,
shared a World Citizenship Award from the Hamilton
In 1997, she was awarded the prestigious Lester
Pearson Medal for her work in the peace movement.
Newcombe has always considered herself a citizen of
the world and feels morally and spiritually connected to
other people, regardless of where they live.
Like many people who read the headlines on weekend
newspapers, she was saddened and shocked by the deaths
of innocent hostages, many of them young children, in
But Newcombe isn't about to surrender to despair.
Every movement in history started small, she said,
usually with one person who had a big idea.
She's encouraged by the fact that the peace movement
is growing around the world and has been described as
the second superpower after the United States.
Her own peace mission started to develop in her
precocious mind as a young girl growing up in the Jewish
quarter of Prague, Czechoslovakia.
Many of her friends and relatives were among the more
than 77,000 Czech Jews killed by the Nazis.
Her parents were able to escape in 1938 and ended up
in Grimsby, where she completed high school.
She won a scholarship to McMaster University where
she met her husband, Allan, the son of a Hamilton fire
They both obtained doctorates in chemistry at the
University of Toronto.
The couple settled in Dundas in 1956.
For several years, while she was bringing up their
three children, she remained at home while her husband
worked as an industrial chemist.
He eventually quit the job and they both became
full-time peace researchers.
They built one of the biggest peace libraries in
Canada and had up to seven paid employees working with
them on peace-related journals.
She continued the work on her own after her husband
died in 1991.
Now alone and with failing eyesight, she feels like
an old soldier holding the fort.
But she's still a soldier for peace, always testing
the pen against the sword.