Melania Trump: the girl from Slovenia who is America’s newest First Lady
William Langley heads to the tiny town in Slovenia where Melania Trump was raised to find out the truth about the former model who is America’s newest First Lady.
On a wintry day in 1986, a teenage girl with wide eyes, high cheekbones and long legs left the small town she had grown up in and took the snowy road to the big city.
Only to discover that Ljubljana, the picturesque but sleepy capital of Slovenia, was nowhere near big enough. Soon, Melanija Knavs, now an aspiring model, was heading for Milan, then Paris and on to New York where, adorned in a $200,000 Dior wedding gown and her name changed to Melania Knauss, she would become the third wife of controversial billionaire and President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump.
A sense of wonderment hangs over the town Melania left behind. Snuggled into the bend of a river, Sevnica is the kind of place even its own mayor struggles to talk up. Freight trains rattle past and smoke from the two local factories drifts across wooded hillsides. In bars and cafés, the main topic of conversation is 46-year-old Melania’s astounding rise from a dingy flat behind the railway station to the $135 million gilded triplex atop Trump Tower, Manhattan’s glitziest skyscraper.
“It does seem unbelievable,” says Melania’s childhood friend, Mirjana Jelancic, 47, now headmistress of the town’s junior school. “But when you know Melania, it’s perhaps not as unbelievable as it seems. She was a remarkable girl and was raised with strong values, and always encouraged to believe in herself. Both her parents gave her that. I remember she would never come out with the rest of us in the evening until she had finished her homework or the jobs her mother had given her. She was very passionate, emphatic, about everything she did and she would never give up until she had achieved what she set out to do.”
Melania was born in 1970 to Viktor Knavs, a travelling salesman, and his seamstress wife, Amalija. At the time, Slovenia was part of Communist-ruled Yugoslavia and the family, including Melania’s older sister, Ines, lived in a state-subsidised apartment block. According to Mirjana, who was brought up in the same building, only a