Life Member Profile – Eugene Baranowsky

Eugene Baranowsky was perhaps the critical person in the Alpine Club of Kiama throughout its first two decades of existence. A skier in Europe before the Second World War, he dreamed of skiing again after his arrival in Australia with wife Lala and daughter Mary in 1951. First, though, he had to establish himself in his career as a veterinary specialist in the Kiama area. He and Lala then began investigating the possibilities for skiing in the Brindabella Range and the Snowy Mountains. At some stage they conceived the idea of building a small lodge with a few of their Ukrainian friends, and in 1957 he and Lala placed a deposit of £50 – almost $1600 in 2019 terms – on a large lot in Thredbo which the pair had just visited. In due course this became the site of the lodge of the Alpine Club of Kiama. It soon became clear that the financial demands of the lodge-building project would require a much larger number of people to support it than the Baranowskys had envisaged, and this led Eugene to seek the backing and assistance of leading Kiama citizens like Keith Young and Darcy Fraser. He was one of the very few early members with experience of skiing, and accordingly he was an obvious choice as the first club captain. A born leader and teacher and enormously enthusiastic, he had the knack of persuading people to follow him – including literally onto the slopes at Thredbo. In committee meetings, too, his wisdom and his understanding of skiing and its culture ensured that his advice was listened to and invariably heeded. He remained on the committee for 27 years, until his death in early 1985, serving as club captain for many years and as a keen adviser on lodge matters. He also had a stint as president. Much loved and respected, he made newcomers and novice skiers comfortable in the club. He became a life member in 1974. Nobody in the history of the Kiama Alpine Club was more influential in its evolution than Eugene.