To us, he was “Mickey!”
Just three days ago as I write this, on April 17th 2011, Boris Jachnin, (Yakhnyeen), changed the entire direction of this article, by dying…
It took four heart attacks to bring down one of the most resilient survivors imaginable.A famous and honored Czech film historian, writer, teacher, lecturer, speaker, artist, who literally rose from the ashes to make his contribution to our art and craft – motion pictures. That was his passion to the end. His beginning was as the son of a Russian-Jewish doctor who was murdered by the German Nazis in 1944 at the Auschwitz concentration camp. His Czech mother was a foreign correspondent who died young. At the age of four Boris fell and seriously injured his tiny pelvis, and was a cripple – though that word is banished – for the rest of his life. He was in various rehabilitation institutes during his entire childhood, and was not able to begin basic schooling until the age of 15. In spite of all this, he graduated from Prague’s Charles University as a Doctor of Sciences in film history. He settled in his mother’s southern Czech home town of Česke Budějovice, (Budweis – home of the original Budweiser Beer), and enjoyed a long carreer as the leading Czech historian of motion picture art. He wrote well over fifty books and articles about film, and gave innumerable lectures. So it’s obvious that he was a person for me to meet when I began to work here.
As it happened, he came to me. He was writing a book about Walt Disney, and was told that there was an American animation director working in the country. He got my Prague address, and wrote me a letter in English with many questions about Disney. Though I never actually worked there, I of course knew a great deal about the Disiney studio from my teachers, Bill Hurtz and John Hubley, and already had many books about Walt Disney in Prague. So in fact I was able to help him with his book, and discovered that with all his pain and erudition, Boris Jachnin was a man of great humor. During the process of getting his book together I began calling him „Mickey,“ and the name stuck. From that time on, he always signed, „Boris-Mickey.“ But Boris was no mouse, rather a lion of film history and theory.
He was born on May Day,1932, and died just three days ago, April 17, 2011. All of us working in any branch of Czech cinema miss him as a friend.