Melania Trump’s parents are recent United States citizens, but they are from Slovenia. Her father, Viktor Knavs, is described as a big personality who bears similarities to Donald Trump, including in physical appearance.
Melania Trump’s mother once worked in a textile factory in Communist Slovenia. The family’s last name is sometimes written as Knauss. Melania’s family also includes her sister, Ines Knauss, with whom she is reportedly close.
Melania Trump sat down for an exclusive interview on ABC News on October 12, 2018. Her parents have flown somewhat beneath the radar, although her father has a fairly colorful biography. On August 9, 2018, Melania’s parents became U.S. citizens.
On ABC, Melania was asked about her parents benefiting from family-based migration, called chain migration, the latter of which Trump has opposed. “I believe in the policies that my husband put together because I believe we need to be very vigilant on who’s coming to the country,” Melania told ABC. She said people should be able to bring in their mother and father but they need to be vetted.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Melania’s Father Was Once Chauffeur to the Town Mayor
According to a lengthy profile on Melania in GQ, Melania Trump’s father met her mother when he was a chauffeur to the town mayor.
Melania was born four years later in Sevnica, which GQ called a “small railroad town where she was born Melanija Knavs in 1970, is about an hour’s drive from the Slovenian capital.”
According to Univision, “Melania’s parents lived in a two-room apartment in Sevnica, a town of about 5,000 residents. They acquired the house through the housing plan of the now liquidated Jutranca textile company where they worked. After Melania was born they moved to a nearby building with an extra room.”
2. Melania’s Parents Had Two Daughters Together
Amalija and Viktor have two daughters. At 46, Melania is the youngest.
Her older sister, Ines Knauss, 48, also lives in New York City and has been able to maintain a low profile. According to the New York Post, the sisters are best friends and the First lady considers Ines to be a confidante.
When Melania was in her teens, the family moved to the country’s capital, Ljubljana, according to The Los Angeles Times.
3. Viktor Was a Member of the Communist Party in Slovenia & Amalija Once Worked in a Textile Factory Making Patterns
The Independent Journal Review reports that Viktor “was a car parts salesman and card-carrying Communist Party member under the former Yugoslavian dictator Marshal Tito.”
The news site added, “Melania grew up on an apartment block that is reflective of Communist-style planned economy that can be found throughout central and eastern Europe.”
In that era, reported The New York Times, people sometimes joined the Communist Party out of “career ambitions” as much as ideology.
Univision reports that neighbors agree “that he joined more out of convenience than conviction. That ensured fewer problems with the party after his daughter was baptized in a Catholic church, like many of the family’s relatives.”
A lengthy GQ profile on Melania Trump says both of her parents have moved to New York and lived near Trump Tower. According to Univision, Melania’s son with Donald Trump, Barron, speaks Slovenian so he can communicate with his grandparents.
The couple was pictured behind the president and Melania at the inauguration.
During Melania’s childhood, Melania’s mother “worked developing patterns at a factory that manufactured children’s clothing. She had met Viktor Knavs in 1966 while he was the chauffeur for a nearby town’s mayor,” according to GQ. The New Yorker reports: “Amalija was an employee of the state-owned Jutranjka textile factory, where she worked as a pattern maker from 1964 until her retirement, in 1997.”
The New York Times reported that Amalija started out “harvesting red onions” on a family farm before working “in the town’s textile factory.” According to The New Yorker, Amalija’s father accidentally created “the famed Raka red onion.”
Amalija’s nickname was “Malci,” the Times reported.
4. Melania’s Father Was a Car Salesman & Her Mother Dressed Her Daughters to Impress
According to GQ, Viktor Knavs was a “salesman at a state-owned car company.”
GQ described him as “spending every Saturday lovingly washing his antique Mercedes,” and says the family was comparatively well off.
He was also a driver for the head of a government-owned textile company, according to The Times. The Times reported that Donald Trump’s spokesperson says Viktor was never an “active” member of the Party.
The Times reported that his job as a car salesman was a traveling one.
Melania and her mother were photographed together in Manhattan. Although makeup-free Melania was described as uncharacteristically dressing down, her mother was carrying a Gucci purse.
Back in Slovenia, reports GQ, Amalija was known as pretty and “always very fancy.”
“Amalija spent evenings after work sewing clothing for herself and her two daughters,” and the family vacationed throughout Europe and painted their home in deep, “lush” colors, GQ reported. Amalija also had a fondness of “western fashion magazines,” the magazine reports.
The Times reported that Amalija would sew her daughters’ clothes and made sure they were always “dressed to impress.”
Melania has said her father “aged gracefully,” according to The Daily Caller.
5. Childhood Friends Have Described Melania’s Father as Reminding Them of Donald Trump
The New York Times reported that childhood friends of Melania’s in Slovenia say that her father reminds them of Donald Trump.
Her father was described as a “larger-than-life personality” by the Times. He would commonly be seen with a suit, tie and briefcase, according to The Times.
The Daily Caller reports that Melania herself has drawn the comparison, saying, “They’re both hardworking. They’re both very smart and very capable. They grew up in totally different environments, but they have the same values, they have the same tradition. I myself am similar to my husband. Do you understand what I mean? So is my dad; he is a family man, he has tradition, he was hardworking. So is my husband.”
According to CBS News, Melania has a half brother named Denis Cigelnjak, the product of her father’s relationship with another woman.
She at first denied this, but then told the news media she had known about it for years when reporters produced documents, CBS News reported.
The Daily Caller reported that “Viktor Knavs had a child with a woman he dated before he met Melania’s mother. Though he argued that the child wasn’t his, a court-ordered blood test proved he was. Melania and her half-brother, Denis Cigelnjak, have never met.”