Some people seem to live life at half-speed and leave little behind to be remembered. Other people, such as Nick Morozoff, do so much in one too-short life that it seems impossible to squeeze the list into one obituary.
Along with an exotic background, Morozoff was in turn a ballet dancer, wheelchair athlete, wheelchair designer and manufacturer, mentor to other wheelchair-bound people and a proud and happy father.
Nikolai Pankratyevich Morozoff, or just Nick Morozoff in Australia, was born on August 8, 1956, in a small village near the city of Hailar in what is now Inner Mongolia, the son of Pankratti and Lidia Morozoff.
Advertisement: Story continues below Pankratti's parents had left Russia during the communist revolution and settled in China, then, in 1958, the Chinese communists forced the family out to Hong Kong, with plans to migrate to Australia.
On the way, they had five years in Bolivia, before arriving in Sydney in January 1964 to learn another new language to go with the four Nick already spoke.
The family settled in Lidcombe and Nick went to Granville Boys High School. School holidays were spent camping, learning to love their new land. At age nine, Nick also fell in love with ballet dancing. He performed as part of the Sydney Dance Company and with a Russian folk troupe, and performed at the opening of the Sydney Opera House in front of the Queen in 1973.
Then, in 1979, a motor vehicle accident left Morozoff paralysed from the waist down. He spent months in Royal North Shore's spinal ward then in rehabilitation. His enthusiasm and willingness to push the boundaries made him a favourite patient for the medical team and he quickly learnt remarkable wheelchair skills. He represented Australia in the 1980 Stoke Mandeville Games (started after World War II as rehabilitation for injured servicemen and now an international event as the IWAS World Games) and in 1984 was part of the Paralympic wheelchair basketball team.
He also represented NSW, played in the National Wheelchair Basketball League for another two decades and is in the Wheelchair Sports NSW Hall of Fame.
Morozoff was also a gifted rock climber and did some remarkable climbs, not the least of which was scaling the Three Sisters with his wheelchair tied to his waist. In 2008 the Herald photographer Tim Clayton snapped an award-winning picture of him hanging from a rock with his wheelchair hanging from his waist.
Morozoff was a sailor as well and part of the team that won gold at the first Australian Disabled Sailing Competition. He could water-ski, snow-ski, fish, play tennis and handcycle - the list goes on. One year, he rowed 1600 kilometres on the Darling River system to help raise funds for charity.
In 1990, Morozoff travelled to Russia, including remote regions of Siberia, to meet his relatives. During the trip, he visited the spinal hospitals of Russia and was shocked by what he saw.
He spent weeks with the authorities educating them on wheelchair design, wheelchair skills, fund-raising, wheelchair sports and opening up opportunities for local wheelchair users. When he returned home, he co-ordinated shipments of wheelchairs and equipment back to Russia.
In Australia, Morozoff volunteered countless hours to peer support and mentoring programs for wheelchair users, especially for children.
By the early 1990s, he was building custom-made ultra-light wheelchairs in his garage in Lidcombe. The wheelchairs gained a strong following among active wheelchair users and led to the ''Knix'' wheelchair range. In 1993, he and two other wheelchair users opened a successful business supplying mobility products to the Australian market. The business was sold in 2001.
Morozoff was instrumental in the beginning of a still-successful business, Seating Dynamics, and remained a part owner-director until February this year. From 2001 to 2010 he also worked as a sales consultant for GTK Rehab, until illness prevented him from working.
In 1999, Morozoff married Allison Wright. Despite all his accomplishments, the thing he cherished most was what he called his ''Little Family'', Allison, their children, Lara and Sasha, his mother, sister, brother and nieces and nephews.
Last year, Morozoff was diagnosed with late-stage esophageal cancer. He and Allison faced this last challenge with characteristic courage and the most positive of attitudes.
Nick Morozoff is survived by Allison, daughters Lara and Sasha, mother Lidia, brother George and sister Nada.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:
Posted by BA Haller at 2:58 AM