Eng. Josef Zelinka in Prague Zoo still held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Source: The Austrian Film Museum.

Thirteen film reels found in the Austrian Film Museum and almost 5 hours of footage, mostly from 1934 to 1937. Unique shots from the early years of Prague Zoo and other places. Who filmed them and who was the woman, appearing in the films? The answer is: Colonel Engineer Josef Zelinka (1893-1948) and Helena Zelinková.

“Independently of the Thursday press conference, the film expert from the Military History Institute Milan Hrubý led me to the first clue,” says Miroslav Bobek. “In his opinion, it was an officer from the Military Technical and Aerospace Institute. Out of dozens of names I selected Colonel Josef Zelinka based on initials and the date of his promotion. The historian Eduard Stehlík provided me with more information about him. Everything was fitting in, but we still were not sure. Only the police pyrotechnician Lieutenant Colonel Zdeněk Horák, who read our appeal, gave us the final confirmation.”

Eng. Josef Zelinka already as a Colonel; he was promoted on January 1, 1937. Source: The Austrian Film Museum.

Thanks to Lt Col Zdeněk Horák we also have the obituary of the author of the films. It explicitly mentions his filming in Prague Zoo.

“Between 1934 and 1939, when he shot his films in Prague Zoo, Lieutenant Colonel and later Colonel Eng. Josef Zelinka worked as the Head of the Department of Small Arms and Machine Guns of the 1st Division of the Military Technical and Aerospace Institute,” said Bobek, describing the results of the investigation up until now. “He was a highly qualified expert, but during the Second World War he also proved his courage and patriotism, when he helped to secure weapons for the resistance group of Lieutenant Colonel Josef Mašín and fought on the barricades during the Prague Uprising.”

“Unknown woman” – Helena Zelinková. Source: The Austrian Film Museum

The only thing we know about Zelinka’s wife Helena, who often appeared in his films and probably also stood behind the camera a number of times, is that she was born on 1892 in Chotěboř and her maiden name was Ningerová.