The well-known Soviet film actor, dancer, composer, and master of the conversational genre Boris Sichkin was born in Kiev in August 1922. He was the seventh child of a cobbler from Odessa. His father died when he was four, and the family was left in a difficult financial situation. Boris's eldest brother, who was by then a professional dancer, taught Boris how to dance. From a young age, Boris earned money by dancing every day at Kiev's Jewish market (the Galitskii Market, which no longer exists). His talent was appreciated mostly by merchants, thieves, and black marketers, all of whom would usually pay him with goods.
In 1937, the 15-year-old Boris Sichkin entered the Kiev School of Dance; at the same time, he also joined the Folk Dance Troupe of the Ukrainian SSR. Shortly before the outbreak of the Soviet-German War, Boris became a member of the Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Kiev military district. During the war, he appeared with a front-line ensemble, where he performed chastushki (ditties on topical, humorous, or lyrical subjects), songs, and dances to raise the morale of the troops. The ensemble often had to perform quite close to the front lines. Once, in the area of Romny (Ukraine), the performers were surrounded by enemy troops; the road was washed out, and the vehicles could not move. Panic ensued, but Boris passed along the column of vehicles, singing and dancing and encouraging the frightened people. Finally, the vehicles managed to break out, and the column reached its destination. Boris Sichkin had the honor of performing before Soviet military leaders, including the Marshals Semion Budionnyi, Konstantin Rokossovsky, and Georgii Zhukov. In 1943, he was awarded the medal "For Combat Services" for his outstanding performances of the Polka and Kamarinskaia dances.
In 1947 and 1948, he was a soloist with the famous Aleksandrov Army Ensemble of Song and Dance. Subsequently, from 1948 to 1966, he was a stage artist with Moskontsert [the Moscow Concert Bureau]. From 1955, he worked with Siniaia ptichka [Little Bluebird], a troupe of literary and theatrical parodists directed by the well-known Soviet writer Viktor Dragunskii. Boris was very active in this job, authoring texts, serving as ballet master, and performing interludes.
From the early 1960s, Sichkin began to appear in film. He acted in several famous Soviet movies, such as Do svidania, malchiki [Good bye, boys!] (1964), Interventsiia [The Intervention] (1968), and Zolotye vorota [Golden Gate] (1969). His most notable role was that of the kupletist (performer of satirical songs) Buba Kastorskii in the popular Soviet film Neulovimye mstiteli [The Elusive Avengers] (1966) and Novye prikliuchenia neulovimykh [The New Adventures of the Elusive Ones] (1968). The character of Buba Kastorskii became so beloved by moviegoers that people began to associate him with Boris Sichkin. Occasionally, the characters portrayed by would Sichkin use Yiddish expressions; this was highly unusual for the Soviet Union at the time.
Sichkin was arrested in 1973 and placed in "temporary" isolation, where he spent more than a year. He was charged with stealing socialist property. He had allegedly been paid double the prescribed amount for his concerts, thereby embezzling state funds. Other well-known actors were accused of similar crimes.
In the end, Sichkin was released, but he was not exonerated until a few years later. In the intervening period, he was not allowed to work; his name was removed from the credits of all the films in which he had appeared, and his son Emelian was expelled from a conservatory. That was the last straw, and so, in 1979, Boris Sichkin emigrated with his son and wife, settling in the United States. Until the last moment, he was expecting some high-ranking Soviet official to show up at the airport and try to talk him into staying.
After the beginning of Perestroika in 1986, Boris visited the Soviet Union and acted in some Russian films. He also managed to appear in some Hollywood movies, such as The Final Days (1989) by Richard Pierce and Nixon (1995) by Oliver Stone (in both films, Sichkin played the role of Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1964-1982).
Boris Sichkin died of a heart attack in March 2002 in New York. At the request of his widow, his remains were cremated and sent to Moscow, where they were kept by family friends for six years. In 2002, the urn containing his ashes was buried at the Vagankovskoie Cemetery in Moscow.
An Excerpt from One Couplet
"My elder brother, an incredible wierdo,
Sang the following couplet before being shot:
Oi, dear Mama, take me back into your womb.
But there was a pogrom
And Mama has been gone for a year now"
Ian Frenkel and Emil Radov, from the feature film Novye prikliucheniia neulovimykh, directed by Edmond Keosaian, Mosfilm, 1968