Viktor Knavs, Melania Trump’s father, is purportedly similar in age to his son-in-law, Donald, in age — he’s just two years older than President Trump — as well as in personality and physique (GQ called him “shockingly Trump-like”). It’s from Amalija Knavs, Melania’s mother, that Melania inherited her impeccable sense of fashion. Acquaintances remember Amalija, who used to work as a pattern-maker at a children’s clothing factory, as perfectly put together and “always very fancy” (via Town & Country). Melania and her sister (yes, Melania has an older sister, Ines) grew up wearing custom-sewn clothes thanks to her mother. It wasn’t long until Melania began sketching clothes of her own, patterns that her mother and sister would sew for her.
By most accounts, the Knavses are a tight-knit family. They travel with the Trumps on Marine One, they regularly attend White House functions, and they split their time between Trump properties, alternating between Trump Tower, weekends at Trump’s 128-room Palm Beach mansion, Mar-a-Lago (Trump calls it his “Winter White House”), and the White House, where they stay in a suite that Michelle Obama’s mother once used (via Town & Country and The New York Times). Amalija and Viktor, reports Politico, are also “hyper-involved” in their grandson, Barron’s life, and speak their native Slovenian to him.
The married couple has come along way from the two-bedroom apartment they used to inhabit in their home town, Sevnica, Slovenia (population 5,000) where Melania Trump grew up.
The Knavses did well in Communist Slovenia
Viktor and Amalija Knavs met in 1966, in Sevnica, Slovenia. It was a town and country dominated Communist President Josip Tito, a dictator known for putting dissidents into hard labor (or re-education) camps (via World Peace Foundation). A The New York Times piece claims that Amalija Knavs worked harvesting onions on a family farm before finding work in Jutranca, a textile factory (via Univision). It was there that she would meet her future husband. According to GQ, Viktor, who spent Sundays ritualistically washing his antique Mercedes, was a card-carrying (though, by many accounts not enthusiastic) member of the Communist Party. He worked first chauffeuring the mayor of a nearby town, Hrastnik, and then as a salesman for a state-owned car company in Ljubljana, the nation’s capital.
Univision reports that it was through the Jutranca company’s housing plan that the Knavses were able to move into the two-bedroom apartment they were living in when Melania Trump was born. After Melania’s birth in 1970, the family moved into a more spacious apartment. “We had a very nice childhood,” Diana Kosar, a childhood friend of Melania’s told Univision. “It was a quiet atmosphere. We had almost everything we needed and more.” The Knavs family continued prospering. By the time they left Slovenia, they had built a house in what GQ describes as the “toniest” part of town. It’s a house they still own and visit.
Viktor and Amalija Knavs stirred up controversy when they became U.S. citizens in 2018
Town and Country reports that the Knavses first stepped foot on U.S. soil in February 2004, when they visited New York City and Mar-a-Lago. In April the same year, Donald Trump proposed to their daughter, Melania. Fourteen years later, after having lived in the United States as green card-carrying permanent residents, they became U.S. Citizens.
Purportedly for security reasons, Melania Trump’s parents were naturalized in August 2018, during a private, low profile, 20-minute ceremony, held at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City (via The New York Times). According to the Chicago Tribune, the couple accessed the building through a side entrance, escorted by the Department of Homeland Security Police. Melania Trump, herself, was conspicuously absent from the ceremony. Her parents purportedly told their lawyers that the First Lady was in Bedminster, N.J. at the time, and presumably close to Trump National Golf Club.
The ceremony might have gone relatively uncommented upon (as intended?) had it not been for President Trump’s high profile immigration politics. As it is, the naturalization proceedings racked in headlines from nationally prominent news outlets (including The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, NPR, The Washington Post, and The Guardian). All outlets were quick to point out that the Knavses had received citizenship through the same policies of “chain migration” that Trump had so vocally criticized.
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