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Vale Boris Tosic: A life lived to the fullest

It is with immense sadness that we report on the passing of Boris Tosic, founder of Élan. Boris was renowned for his irrepressible spirit, his drive and his big heart.

Vale Boris Tosic: A life lived to the fullest

Boris Tosic.

Boris Tosic, a stalwart member of the Australian design industry, has passed peacefully surrounded by his family, following a valiant battle with Motor Neurone Disease. His legacy lives on through his six children and Élan, the business he founded over 30 years ago and was deeply proud of.

A Requiem Mass will be held for Boris Thursday 12 January, 10:30-11.30am at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church: 457 – 459 Oxford St, Paddington, Sydney. A Wake will be hosted 11.30am-1.30pm at The Light Brigade, ‘Brigade Room’: Level 2, Cnr Oxford St and Jersey Rd, Paddington, Sydney.

Boris was born in Yugoslavia (now Croatia) in 1965. Raised by two hardworking parents, his childhood was framed by a deep respect and pride for hard work. “I got the message early on in life that work was important and that because my parents made sacrifices, I had to as well,” recounted Boris in his memoir, written in 2021. “That influenced my own work ethic and helped to develop an inner strength in me from a very early age,” he wrote.

In January of 1990 at age 25, Boris arrived in Australia on a seaman’s pass. Instantly enamoured with Sydney and the promise of an Australian way of life, he acted on a strong impulse to jump ship. He set off from White Bay with a sports bag, two pairs of Converse sneakers and $50 to his name. “I was 16,000 kilometres from the life I’d known in Croatia, completely alone, and I could barely speak a word of English,” he remembered.

Not afraid of a challenge, Boris embraced his new life with flair – and some valuable time spent in front of the television. “I had to learn English, and I had to do it fast. I became the most valued customer at Paddington Video Ezy because I watched four or five hundred movies a year for the first two years I was here,” Boris recounted through his memoir.

Boris was renowned among friends, family and acquaintances for his fire and force. Everything he set his mind to, he did with commitment and the intent to succeed.

“When anyone comes to me and says they don’t know what to do with their life, I tell them that I don’t believe it’s about finding any particular job or vocation. With any job if you apply yourself, you’re going to find your niche or what you like. If you can fall in love with your work and with your ability to make it better, your ability will improve. So, in that regard every job is valuable,” wrote Boris.

Boris made his way in Australia first as a tradesperson, before following his destiny to work for himself. “At one time I had six or seven businesses but when my kids asked me, ‘How do you become a businessman?’ I say, ‘There’s no such thing. You just apply yourself daily as a human. You’ve got to put yourself forward, volunteer and take chances.’”

For about 20 years Boris had a company called Unlimited Interiors which specialised in commercial office fit-outs. “I was the sole vendor for American Express for 15 years. It started when I did a job for American Express. It was one of the largest commercial projects going at the time – 15,000 square metres of office fit-out,” he recalled.

“I remember sitting in the boardroom with all these executives: ‘I’ll work the first month for free,’ I said, ‘and if you like our work, you can give us the whole contract.’ That was a gamble… but it paid off.”

Boris founded Élan, its name synonymous with energy, style and enthusiasm, during the 1990s – a time when Sydney’s building industry was punishing. “But it was a lucky time for me,” he wrote. “It took long, physically demanding days and sheer force of will, but we earned a reputation for speedy work and that’s how we earnt respect and a steady stream of jobs.”

“Élan is built on quality, longevity and building relationships. Collaborations are important. I have working relationships of 20 and 30 years which is a rare thing.” Élan will continue in the bold tradition founded by Boris with his son Luke Tosic as director and his other four sons to take their place in the family business in time.

With Boris’ passing has come an outpouring of homages, honouring Boris for his big heart, his force of personality and conviction, his fire and his unerring vision. “It was an honour to know Boris” – this from the Living Edge team, and a sentiment shared by all.

Special thanks to Boris’ wife, Naomi Tosic, and his family for sharing with us extracts from Boris’ memoir: a vivid recounting of a very full life.

A Requiem Mass will be held for Boris Thursday 12 January, 10:30-11.30am at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church: 457 – 459 Oxford St, Paddington, Sydney. A Wake will be hosted 11.30am-1.30pm at The Light Brigade, ‘Brigade Room’: Level 2, Cnr Oxford St and Jersey Rd, Paddington, Sydney.

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