Boris Leskin was born in 1923 in a Jewish family in Petrograd. His parents were refugees from Romania, who had fled their native country because of anti-Semitism.
In 1938, at the height of the "Great Purge", Boris' father, Wulf, was arrested, and shot shortly thereafter.
Following the Nazi invasion of the USSR in late June 1941, Boris Leskin, who had just finished high school, volunteered for frontline duty. He completed a brief, three-month officer course, and was then appointed commander of a pontoon bridge squad. His unit had to clear passages through minefields. These passages would then be used to send shtrafniki (soldiers convicted by a tribunal for military or criminal offenses) to gather information in enemy territory. Few convicts returned alive from such assignments.
Boris Leskin was actively involved in the defense of Leningrad and in lifting the siege of the city. In July 1944, the forces of the Leningrad Front were deployed near the city of Narva. The tent of Boris Leskin and his commander, Major Leibman, was hit by a bomb. The commander was killed on the spot, but Leskin remained miraculously unscathed.
In spring 1945, the infantry division in which Boris Leskin served took part in the liberation of the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig (present-day Gdańsk).
In the course of the war, Boris Leskin was awarded the Order of the Red Star, as well as medals. In 1945, following the end of the Soviet-German War, Boris Leskin, as a pontoon bridge specialist, was sent to the war with Japan.
In 1946, Boris returned to his native Leningrad, where he began to study at the Leningrad Theater Institute. In 1952, after his graduation, he became an actor at the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater in the city, where he worked until 1980. Boris Leskin was an inimitable master of comic bit parts.
Apart from his theater career, Leskin was also a movie actor. He appeared in such famous films as Maksim Perepelitsa (1955), The Republic of ShKID (1966), Property of the Republic (1971), The Intervention (1968), Anna's Bliss (1970), and others.
In 1980, at the age of 57, Boris Leskin decided to immigrate to America. Following this decision, he was stripped of all his decorations and expelled from the Party, and all photographs that depicted him in military uniform were confiscated. Nevertheless, the authorities did allow him to leave the country.
After coming to America, Boris initially worked as a delivery man. He tried unsuccessfully to find a job as a taxi driver, and suffered from poverty. Only in 1985 was he offered a role in cinema. He appeared in the movie The Falcon and the Snowman, which starred Sean Justin Penn. His subsequent career in Hollywood was quite successful, though he was still limited to bit roles. Thus, he appeared in the blockbusters Men in Black (1997), starring Will Smith, and Vampire's Kiss (1989), starring Nicolas Cage.
In the 2000s, he made numerous trips to Russia, receiving awards and appearing on TV. Boris Leskin was a member of the nomination committee for Academy Awards.
In 2011, Boris Leskin became the subject of a documentary titled Boba. The Sapper of the Bolshoi Drama Theater (directed by Eduard Staroselsky).
Boris Leksin died in New York in 2020.