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Andrei Anghel, 24, from Ajax, died aboard the Malaysia Airlines jet that was shot down over Ukraine on July 17, 2014. (LinkedIn)
Andrei Anghel, 24, from Ajax, died aboard the Malaysia Airlines jet that was shot down over Ukraine on July 17, 2014. (LinkedIn)

MH17: Ontario student among victims mourned, along with children, AIDS experts and others Add to ...

With his second year of medical school behind him, Andrei Anghel booked an escape – five weeks in Bali with his girlfriend, before a quick trip home to Canada and, then, another year of school.

It was, his sister Alexandra recalls, a dream vacation. She last heard from him Wednesday night – already morning in Europe. “‘Hey, good morning, the next time I message you, we’ll be in Bali,’” he wrote. “And I just said, ‘OK, please be safe, I love you,’” she recalls.

She didn’t know details about his flight, or whether he had a connection. She thought little of reports of a Malaysia Airlines plane crash the next day. Then the messages began arriving. By evening, police were knocking on her parents’ door in Ajax, Ont., while Alexandra, 26, flew to them from her Edmonton home. Andrei was among the dead.

“I just don’t get it. It doesn’t feel real. I just talked to him,” Ms. Anghel told The Globe and Mail on Friday, sitting near the Lake Ontario shore, not far from her parents’ home. She’d lit two candles for her brother, who turned 24 in May, wedging them into stones by the water. “I miss just hanging out down here with him, at the lake. … and [we’d] just talk about nothing, talk about life,” she said. “… I know that pretty soon, I’m going to want some answers about what, and why.”

Alexandra and Andrei were born in Romania. Their parents applied for a visa when she was born, Alexandra says, but she was 10 and Andrei 8 by the time the family made it to Canada. “They just wanted a better life for me and my brother,” she said of her parents’ desire to move.

Andrei was once a shy boy, she recalls, but that changed when he was a teenager. “He got tall one day,” she said, laughing, “And then I wasn’t his big sister any more. I was always his little sister after that.”

He became outgoing, gregarious and ambitious. Andrei went to high school in Ajax, doing a volunteer trip to Costa Rica, his sister recalled. He liked drawing, camping, longboarding and being outdoors. He attended the University of Waterloo for his undergraduate degree, before setting his sights on a career in medicine. “He wanted to change the world,” his sister said.

Brian Dixon, a professor of biology at Waterloo, remembers Mr. Anghel as one of the most motivated students – keen, hard-working and always asking questions. Prof. Dixon eventually wrote a letter of recommendation for Mr. Anghel.

Mr. Anghel wanted to become a cancer researcher. He failed in his first attempt at entering medical school and considered moving to Banff, Alta., to find work but decided to persevere and was successful on the second try. “He was very determined. He was a really nice, personable guy,” Prof. Dixon said. “He would have made a great doctor.”

His medical studies brought him back to the country his parents had left in search of a better life – Romania. He lived in his grandmother’s apartment. His girlfriend, a German citizen the family identified only as Olga, was a fellow student as well. Both had just finished the second year of a six-year program, and were set for five weeks in Bali.

Malaysian Airlines said 298 people died when its jet crashed. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said flatly the plane was “shot down,” though the airline says it can’t confirm exactly what led to the crash. Mr. Anghel is the only Canadian believed to be among the dead, though the airline has yet to identify four of the victims.

The local MP is Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, who visited the family Friday morning. “Andrei represented the best that Ajax and Canada have to offer. He had worked and studied hard to realize his dream of becoming a doctor, and was looking forward to a long-planned holiday in Bali. My wife and I are devastated by his family's loss,” Mr. Alexander said in the statement. The Canadian government has pledged to support Ukrainian authorities in the investigation into what Mr. Alexander called an “egregious act of terror.”

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