Where Was Melania Trump Raised? The Small Slovenian Town Has Embraced The First Lady's Fame
The odds are you can't find it on a map. The small town in Slovenia where the current first lady is from has just a few thousand people in it. Despite the rise in tourism since President Donald Trump's inauguration, it's still not very well known. Melania Trump was raised in Sevnica, Slovenia, a former industrial town on the banks of the Sava River. It was part of communist Yugoslavia when she was born, but is now experiencing growth and stability as a part of the European Union.
Nowadays there's just one big factory — they make lingerie. Instead the newly booming industry appears to be tourism. Much of it is organized around Melania's fame and new role as first lady. There are Melanija cakes at the local bakery (her name was originally spelled that way), and there are several tour companies offering first lady-themed tours through town.
Melanija Knavs, as she was known growing up, is celebrated by most of the residents — even if her husband is not. Many see her prominent role as beneficial to the local economy. "It's good for us and for Melania. It's good for our town and our wine," David Kozinc, a wine salesman, told CNN. "We will probably make wine and call it 'Trump.' It is very nice that people will now know where Sevnica is."
The town is picturesque, located between the banks of the river and the Sevnica Castle which is up on a hill looking over the town. There are also a number of church steeples and smoke stacks that dot the skyline. Another claim to fame — albeit a tragic one — are the mass graves from World War II that are scattered around town.
Mass graves have been a troubling topic in Slovenia in recent years. Most of those killed were German soldiers and Nazi collaborators, but they were murdered without trial. And some innocent civilians are thought to have been killed too. The elderly have been afraid to speak of them for fear of revenge killings and no one has been brought to trial.
The graves are not the main attraction to town, though. Instead, it's Melania's connection with the place.
The attention has led some in town to reminisce about the now first lady. "The more I talk about her, the more I wish we could have coffee together and just have a chat about our children. But I realize she lives in a completely different world now, and that the chances are one in a million," Mirjana Jelancic, one of Melania's childhood friends, told Australia's ABC.
Melania didn't stick around long in the town. Instead she followed her modeling career to European capitals and then New York City. There, she eventually applied for an EB-1 immigrant visa which gave her a path to a green card and permanent residency. How Melania qualified for the visa has been a recent matter of speculation in the media.
Since moving, Melania has rarely returned to her hometown. Her last visit is thought to be more than a decade ago. Her parents, who also primarily live in the United States, do still own a home there. One tour guide, Lidija Ogorevc, told NPR News about the neighborhood, "That's the Beverly Hills of Sevnica. I say it like that because most people who have money can afford to build a house there."
If you're planning a trip to Slovenia, you can check out the town for yourself. The train brings you right to the center of it. And for fans of sweets, the Melania-themed dessert cake has white chocolate mousse, nuts, and edible gold.