By Claire Ottaviano
IF you purchased a jigsaw puzzle from Salvos Midland in the past six months, there is a chance you could be unknowingly holding a very personal collection of family war medals.
In February, Helena Valley resident Gary Jesnoewski placed his grandfather’s and uncle’s medals into a jigsaw puzzle box for safe keeping.
The well-intended decision has left him devastated after accidentally donating the box to the Salvos not long after.
“I thought to myself, I want to make sure no-one breaks into the house and finds these medals,” he said.
“Wisely, or stupidly, I thought no thief is going to look in boxes of jigsaws.
“I set the medals in two white envelopes inside a jigsaw and forgot they were there.”
Mr Jesnoewski realised his mistake only two weeks ago after he went searching for the medals to mount them on bars so his ten-year-old grandson could wear them at Anzac parades.
“They were my grandfather, Gustave Ernest Jesnoewski’s, from World War I and my dad’s older brother, Leslie Albert Jesnoewski’s, who went down on HMAS Sydney in World War II.
“My grandmother and grandfather were devastated with the loss of HMAS Sydney and lived for years hoping Les would be found alive.
“I was the custodian [of the medals] and I feel like I’ve let the family down.”
After inquiring with the Midland Salvos, Mr Jesnoewski was told puzzle boxes would usually be checked and sealed before going on the self for sale, but the rush of demand for puzzles during COVID-19 lockdowns saw them flying out the door before the usual checks could be done.
Best case scenario, the purchased box remains untouched in someone’s home in the Midland area, with the medals inside waiting to be discovered.
“I can’t tell you how heartbroken I feel,” he said.
“Dad’s gone now and they were my responsibility and I’ve blown it.
“I feel like I’ve betrayed my dad’s trust.”
Countless hours of searching online auctions for the medals as well as inquiries with lost medal websites and Facebook pages, the RSL and police have turned up nothing which leaves an unknowing buyer as a likely situation.
If you have found the precious pieces, Mr Jesnoewski is pleading for their return to him or police, no questions asked.
He can be contacted on 0431 158 628.