US war veteran reunited with bracelet lost in Czechoslovakia in 1945
At the end of the Second World War, American Joe Esquibel lost a silver bracelet when serving as a guard at a prisoner-of-war camp near the west Bohemian town of Mariánské Lázně. Now, more than 76 years later, he got it back thanks to a chance discovery by a local man.
Petr Švihovec, a native from Mariánské Lázně, discovered the silver bracelet and other artefacts in October last year, when searching the site of a former prisoner of war camp with his metal detector.
Apart from the bracelet, he also found a service ribbon with a bronze star, an Army lapel pic and a Swiss coin. This is how he recalled the discovery in an interview for Czech Radio:
“I noticed that there was a signature on the bracelet and on the other side, I saw another three engraved letters: L, I and D. When I cleared the dirt away, I realized it was the name Lidya.
“My heart skipped a beat and I was seized with the desire to find out who it belonged to and return it to the owner.
“I started by Googling Lidya Esquibel and found a death announcement for a woman, who could have been the owner’s sweetheart.”
Mr Švihovec then reached out to a historian from Pilsen, who tracked down a document from the war signed by Joe Ernest Esquibel, which exactly matched the signature on the bracelet.
“I posted a picture of the bracelet on my Facebook page and my friend shared it on a page frequented by Czechs working and living in the United States.
“A Czech woman, Alena Bušovská, noticed the picture, went to the Esquibels’ home and talked to Joe's daughter. That’s how we found out that he was alive.
In the meantime, Mr Švihovec sent an email to the family of Joe Esquibel with pictures of the bracelet. They printed them out and showed them to the old man, who recognized his belongings immediately. When a photo arrived of the war veteran holding the printed email, Mr Švihovec says he couldn’t hold his tears.
Thanks to the cooperation of the U.S. Embassy in the Czech Republic, the found items were sent to Mr Esquibel’s home in Grand Junction, Colorado via diplomatic mail. When the 95-year-old man saw his long-lost possession, he was quick to recollect the old days, says Mr. Švihovec:
“He bought the silver bracelet as a 19-year-old-boy before going to Europe. He had his signature engraved on the top and he used a knife to carve the name Lydia on the other side. Three years after the war, they got married. If Joe hadn't married Lydia, we would never have found him!”
The incredible story doesn’t end with the handover of the bracelet. Petr Švihovec has accepted Joe Esquibel’s invitation to visit him in Colorado next year.