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33: Mare Nostrum Clinica, Palma

Everybody in Cala d'Or sighed in relief when the news came through, the following evening, that Don Ivan was safely installed in the Mare Nostrum Clinica, with a nice private room and a bathroom.

Tuesday 23 October, many of his friends were there. Ivan told them all, jubilantly, that the doctors had examined him and said there was no need for an operation, he must rest and after that he could go home.

The doctors had not told him that his condition had passed the stage where any operation could save him, the most they could do was make his last days comfortable.

And comfortable they were. The kind nuns moved gently round his room, quietly and unobtrusively doing what had to be done. He found strength, every day,to stalk slowly into the bathroom and plaster down his thin hair before sinking thankfully into bed.

He read a lot, slept a lot, and every day Longin came to see him.

During the morning of Sunday 28 October, Longin and some other friends were to see him. Longin always came in for a second visit in the evening, so the old chums said only a casual, and perhaps not too polite, goodbye before the visitors were ushered out by the nun getting Ivan ready for his lunch.

In the late afternoon, as the setting sun turned the clinica's white walls rosy with a good-night glow, a nun peeped in to see if there were anything that Don Ivan required. She came in softly, not to wake him. But when she stood beside the bed she saw that he was dead.

"Requiescat in pace," she breathed gently, making the sign of the cross; then she covered his face and knelt to say an Ave.

Sunday 28 October 1956, the great aviator Ivan Vasilyevich Smirnoff had left this world.



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