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26: Ivan meets Niki and falls in Love

When the Douglas DC4 Sky Merchant returned to New York the 15th of April in a blaze of glory, everybody was happy and content. Ivan's friends in New York had laid on a splendid celebration at the Waldorf Astoria, and it was at this party that Ivan met and fell in love with the American girl Mina Redwood - always known as 'Niki'.

Waldorf Astoria, New York
Waldorf Astoria, where Ivan met 'Niki'.

At a later occasion: 'Niki' and Ivan in New York, 17 August 1948.

New York City Hall

After a whirlwind wooing Ivan married Mina Redwood in New York City Hall on 23 September 1948.

.... Back in Holland he threw himself into the business of being a 'desk fellah'. He left the Oudemanslaan house in Heemstede at half past seven in the morning and got back from his office in the Head Inspection Bureau of KLM in The Hague after seven at night.

But Holland itself was not forgetting him. New ways of honouring Ivan were still being found. In June 1949 the Municipal Council of Groningen named a street after him as a tribute to his pioneering work in civil flying.

Later several more streets were named after him. Today in Holland, one street is named 'Smirnofflaan', seven streets hold the name of 'Smirnoffstraat' and two are called 'Smirnoffweg'. Furthermore there is a 'Carrer Aviador Smirnoff' in Cala D'Or on the Island of Majorca.

Ivan had now retired and in 1949 Ivan took his wife Niki on a round tour of Cairo, Rome and Naples.

Then they left for America. But, Ivan had not realized till he got there, that until he was a fully fledged US citizen his pension could not be moved with him, nor his money in the bank. Everything was blocked.

Niki, being an American citizen, was free to move her own money and, indeed, was financing their stay. Ivan was revolted to find that he had practically to count the number of drinks he had by the dollars in his wife's purse.

The plain fact was, he reflected, he could not afford to be in America at all. And anyway he was homesick for Holland and fed up with not being able to get hands on his own money!

So it was back to Oudemanslaan and old friends again, and soon he was happily busy with his pet dream of planning an air transport system that would really be for the benefit of mankind and not for war potential and destruction.

One of his projects was to have a fleet of Catalinas humping cargo and 'steerage' passengers from one port to another all round the Mediterranean coast, not criss-crossing the sea like the ordinary airlines, but hopping from one seaplane base to the next, with short-distance freight like tramp steamers.

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