History

The Canadian Austrian Society of Toronto was founded in 1968 by a group of expatriate Austrians, who felt the need to perpetuate their Austrian heritage and pass it on to their children, but also introduce it to their new countrymen in Canada.

The initiator was Mr. Fritz Istl, a businessman of renown, with the vision to create a way of keeping alive the expatriates' connection to their homeland. Through his personal commitment and initiative, shortly after the Society was founded, the first Austrian Consulate was established in Toronto in 1970 with Fritz Istl its first Consul General. His continued endeavours on behalf of Austrians in the Greater Toronto Area and all things Austrian earned him the Order of Austria in Gold. Other founding members were Dr. Mautner, personal physician to the Austrian community and the Austrian Consulate in Toronto, Mr. Lederer, Mr. Seliger, professor at the German language department at the University of Toronto, Mr. Raschke-&-Meyer-2Liska, a well-known businessman, amongst others. Mrs. Maria Piller was a member from the very beginning of the Society and served as director and membership chair for many years. From early on she practiced an "open door policy" inviting the many new immigrants from Austria into her home to make their assimilation into their new home somewhat easier. She is affectionately known by her many grateful friends as "Mutti Piller" and epitomizes Austrian warmth and charm. Some of the longest-serving Presidents of the Society were Mr. Rudolf Liska (10 years), Mr. John Raschke (15 years), Dr. Manfred Straka (10 years), Ms. Christine Meyer (14 years to date).

Many of the first members remained active in the Society's functions and were instrumental in successfully organizing many events with Austrian content and themes. One of the most successful events of the Society being the Annual Ball Austria, which in 2012 will showcase its 40th consecutive Jubilee. This ball is held in the glamorous Austrian tradition of gala dinners and ballroom dancing, and has always been held under a specific theme, e.g. celebrating 1000 years Austria, different composers, poets, artists and others. The 2013 event will celebrate this 40th Jubilee with an appropriate Intermezzo of Operetta music, leading us on a stroll through Austria's various regions.

Other notable events are regular German language film evenings, readings by visiting Austrian writers, Spring and Fall outings giving members and their guests an opportunity to socialize with other members, while spending a pleasant day in the countryside, and more recently also group theatre outings to Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake. The annual typical Viennese Heurigen evening, complete with Schnitzel dinner and Viennese music, is always a highlight on members' calendar. The Society also hosts an annual Austrian National Holiday Celebration in acknowledgement of our firm ties with Austria, the homeland of most of our members. The Society endeavours to assist Austrian victims of disasters, as was the case following the great flood devastations in Austria, when we were able to remit to the Austrian Red Cross a considerable donation. The Society also supports the activities of the SOS Children's Village organization, with their worldwide efforts on behalf of orphaned and abandoned children.