Anastasia Gromova, 24, had a flair for adventure.
The McGill University graduate and Montreal resident had been working at a marketing agency for the past three years but was planning to uproot her life and move to Japan to teach English this fall.
Her life tragically ended before she could actualize her plan.
Gromova was one of at least 97 people killed in the Surfside, Fla., condo building collapse on June 24.
“She was bright, smart and outgoing, very independent, very self-sufficient and caring. She was the brightest part, probably, of my life,” her father Sergiy Gromov told Global News over the phone from Miami.
Sergiy and his wife Larysa left Toronto for Florida as soon as they heard Anastasia had been in the building that collapsed. Anastasia’s older sister Anna, 34, traveled from Chile to be in Florida with her family.
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“She loved living in Montreal,” Anna said of her sister. “She loved the culture, the people, she had a lot of friends in Montreal that she would visit a lot.”
Anastasia graduated from McGill in 2018 after studying marketing and business management and had been working at Cossette, a marketing and communications agency. She had recently been accepted to a program that would allow her to live and teach English in Japan and planned to move there in the coming months.
“She travelled a lot and she was very passionate about Asia. She’d already been to Taipei and Malaysia and some other countries, but she really wanted to go to Japan,” her sister Anna explained.
Anna said that Anastasia had been studying Japanese for three years on her own, and had been accepted to the program the second time she applied. She had just received the confirmation in June.
Knowing they wouldn’t see each other for a long time, Anastasia’s good friend and former schoolmate Michelle Anna Pazos, 23, invited her to join her on a trip to Surfside. The pair had become close while they studied at McGill. Pazos also lived and worked in Montreal; the fourth-floor condo unit in the Florida building that collapsed belonged to her 55-year-old father Miguel.
“They realized they wouldn’t be able to spend much time together anymore, and they had a couple of months left. So when Michelle’s father invited her to visit, she asked Anastasia if she wanted to come too. The girls were here for two weeks of vacation,” Anna explained.
She said they went to the beach, got their nails done and were having a lot of fun before their lives abruptly and unexpectedly ended.
Larysa Gromova, Anastasia’s mother, said her daughter’s remains were found on July 18 and identified on July 21. The remains of Michelle Pazos and her father were found on July 9 and July 8, respectively.
READ MORE: Remains of third Canadian pulled from Surfside condo collapse: GAC
“It was so surprisingly awful, because a 40-year-old building couldn’t just collapse. It wasn’t a hurricane, or an explosion or a war, it just collapsed,” said Anastasia’s mother.
She said families of other victims she has met in Florida are all wondering how something like this could have possibly happened in the United States.
“We are trying to find the answers, but right now it seems like no one has answers,” said Anastasia’s father. “From an engineering point of view, what could possibly happen to this building? So far there are no answers.”
Sergiy said on the day of the disaster, the family received a call from Michelle’s mother saying the collapsed building was indeed the one the two girls had been staying in.
“When I called Miami and the family assistance centre and hotline, they confirmed this was the building. That’s when I realized it wasn’t going to be good for them,” he said.
The family was at the Canadian Consulate in Miami when reached by Global News, dealing with paperwork and making plans to bring Anastasia’s ashes back to Canada in order to arrange a funeral.
“She was always very happy, always very grateful about life, always smiling and always appreciating the small moments like the sun going down, and the flowers,” said Anna.
The family wants to thank Anastasia’s colleagues from Cossette for reaching out and offering condolences and support.
“A lot of them have been reaching out, they’ve been sending some pictures and I think that helps,” said Anna.
“We were overwhelmed with their support,” said Sergiy.