Melania Trump didn’t grow up surrounded by the luxury she’s enjoyed for the past few decades. But while the Slovenian former model’s life has changed immeasurably since she landed in New York back in 1996, it’s been an even wilder roller coaster ride for her parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, who are the ultimate reminder of her life before Donald Trump.
The couple met in the Slovenian (then Yugoslav) town of Sevnica in 1966 when Viktor was a chauffeur for the mayor of a nearby town and Amalija was a patternmaker for a children’s clothing company. They lived in a two-bedroom flat until Viktor started earning more money as a car salesman.
They were doing well for themselves by the time they had their two daughters, first Ines in 1968 and then Melania, two years later. Viktor also has a son from a previous relationship that he’s never met.
To this day the family have a house in Sevnica and visit the town a few times a year.
Much like former first lady Michelle Obama’s mother, the Knavs took up residence inside the White House after Trump was sworn in. The move was to help take care of Barron Trump when Melania and Donald were away. The rest of their time they spend at Trump residences in New York City and Florida.
The couple first visited the US in 2004, a couple of months before Donald Trump proposed to Melania. But they had met Trump in 2002 when he flew to Slovenia’s capital for a few hours to have dinner with them. They lived in the US under green cards until they were officially sworn in as citizens in August 2018.
It has been widely reported that Viktor was a member of the Communist Party of Slovenia, but Trump re-election campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The New York Times that Knavs had never been an “active member” of the party.
It’s unclear how they feel about Trump’s strict stance on immigration. Donald has called for an end to chain immigration which allows immigrants to sponsor their parents and siblings – but that’s believed to be how Melania obtained citizenship for her own parents.
It’s clear the family is close as they’re often seen stepping off planes behind the Trumps and attending political events. Even before they moved to Washington, Melania attended fashion shows with her mother.
Melania publicly thanked them in her 2020 Republican National Convention speech, specifically acknowledging the lifestyle they gave her which enabled her to become a US citizen and end up in the White House.
The Slovene speakers are also said to be “hyper-involved” in their grandson Barron Trump’s life, according to Politico.