Inside the incredible life of Melania Trump’s mother Amalija Knavs: How seamstress who


Melania Trump has certainly come a long way from her humble upbringing in a small town in Slovenia – and while the former First Lady’s journey is impressive, what’s an even more inspiring story is that of mom Amalija Knavs’.

Amalija was raised in poverty and worked as an onion picker on her family farm throughout her childhood, but she went on to land a job at one of the most successful clothing manufacturers in the area – which ultimately inspired Melania’s love of fashion and drove her to want to pursue a career in modeling.

Amalija’s ascent from a poor farm girl in a tiny village to mingling with top politicians in the White House has been on the forefront of everyone’s minds this week, as Melania, 53, confirmed on Tuesday that Amalija had passed away at age 78.

‘It is with deep sadness that I announce the passing of my beloved mother, Amalija,’ she said in a statement. 

Melania Trump, 53, confirmed on Tuesday that her mother, Amalija Knavs, had passed away at age 78. They are seen, along with her husband, Donald Trump, in 2018

Melania Trump, 53, confirmed on Tuesday that her mother, Amalija Knavs, had passed away at age 78. They are seen, along with her husband, Donald Trump, in 2018

Being in the inner circle of a top US figure was something Amalija likely never imagined during her years as an impoverished factory worker or poor farm girl. She's seen with Melania in 2004

Being in the inner circle of a top US figure was something Amalija likely never imagined during her years as an impoverished factory worker or poor farm girl. She’s seen with Melania in 2004

‘Amalija was a strong woman who always carried herself with grace, warmth, and dignity. 

‘She was entirely devoted to her husband, daughters, grandson, and son-in-law. We will miss her beyond measure and continue to honor and love her legacy.’ 

The former First Lady’s husband Donald Trump, 77, also shared a tribute to Amalija, writing, ‘This is a very sad night for the entire Trump family.

‘Melania’s great and beautiful mother, Amalija, has just gone to a beautiful place in the sky. She was an incredible woman, and will be missed far beyond words.’

As Melania and Donald mourn the loss of her mother, FEMAIL went ahead and recapped Amalija's impressive journey from start to finish

As Melania and Donald mourn the loss of her mother, FEMAIL went ahead and recapped Amalija’s impressive journey from start to finish

Being in the inner circle of a top US figure was something Amalija likely never imagined during her years as an impoverished factory worker.

After spending years helping out on her parents’ plantation, Amalija landed a job as seamstress at a textile company, which is where she met her future husband, Viktor Knavs.

The couple quickly welcomed two daughters together, Ines and Melania, and despite both hailing from poor families, they managed to create a better life for themselves and their two children.

It’s been said that Viktor’s ties to the Communist party helped immensely – with a source once telling DailyMail.com that the family got special treatment in the town, like earning ‘higher positions’ or receiving first access to ‘essentials’ during a time when many goods were rationed because of shortages.

Melania, however, has insisted that it was her parents’ hard work and determination that helped them leave poverty behind.

Either way, had her mom not instilled a passion for clothes in her at a young age, it’s safe to say that Melania may have never launched herself into the spotlight and crossed paths with her now-husband.

As Melania and Donald mourn the loss of her mother, FEMAIL went ahead and recapped Amalija’s impressive journey from start to finish – from her humble beginnings to how she left her destitute childhood behind to integrate herself into the world of US politics, thanks to her extremely close relationship with her daughter. 

Poverty-stricken childhood: Amalija spent her early years picking onions on her family farm before landing a job in a factory – where she met her future husband, Viktor Knavs 

Amalija was born in 1945 in Austria, but her family moved to a small rural village called Raka in Slovenia when she was young. She's seen in 1966

Amalija was born in 1945 in Austria, but her family moved to a small rural village called Raka in Slovenia when she was young. She's seen in 1980

Amalija was born in 1945 in Austria, but her family moved to a small rural village called Raka in Slovenia when she was young. She’s seen in 1966 (left) and 1980 (right)

While Amalija's dad Anton Ulčnik was one of the most successful onion farmers in all of Slovenia, the family grew up in poverty. She's pictured in 1965

While Amalija’s dad Anton Ulčnik was one of the most successful onion farmers in all of Slovenia, the family grew up in poverty. She’s pictured in 1965

Amalija spent her humble childhood helping out on the family farm, before eventually working at a textile factory. She's seen in 1982

Amalija spent her humble childhood helping out on the family farm, before eventually working at a textile factory. She’s seen in 1982

Amalija was born in 1945 in Judendorf-Strassengel, Austria, but her family moved to a small rural village called Raka in Slovenia when she was young – while it was still under Communist rule. 

It was there that she met her future husband, Viktor Knavs (seen together in 1967), who hailed from the nearby town Radeče and was a driver for one of the directors at the factory

It was there that she met her future husband, Viktor Knavs (seen together in 1967), who hailed from the nearby town Radeče and was a driver for one of the directors at the factory

While Amalija’s dad Anton Ulčnik was one of the most successful onion farmers in all of Slovenia, the family grew up in poverty.

According to The Washington Post, he ‘was the largest grower and breeder of the onion for several decades, beginning in the late 1940s, and by the 1970s, he was the largest single grower of Raka onions, harvesting as many as 50 tons per year.’

Amalija spent her humble childhood helping out on the family farm, before eventually landing a job at a textile factory.

It was there that she met her future husband, Viktor Knavs, who hailed from the nearby town Radeče and was a driver for one of the directors at the factory. 

They tied the knot soon after getting together in 1966, and welcomed their first daughter, Ines, in 1968, followed by Melania in 1970. 

Melania’s Communist upbringing: Viktor’s ties to the Party helped him and Amalija land ‘higher positions’ – he ran a car dealership and she worked as a patternmarker while they raised their daughters

They tied the knot soon after getting together in 1966, and welcomed their first daughter, Ines in 1968, followed by Melania in 1970. Amalija is seen with Ines when she was a baby

They tied the knot soon after getting together in 1966, and welcomed their first daughter, Ines in 1968, followed by Melania in 1970. Amalija is seen with Ines when she was a baby

Amalija and Viktor raised their two daughters in a village called Sevnica (seen), near Slovenia's border with Croatia

Amalija and Viktor raised their two daughters in a village called Sevnica (seen), near Slovenia’s border with Croatia

Amalija and Viktor raised their two daughters in a village called Sevnica, near Slovenia’s border with Croatia.

Before the breakup of socialist Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Slovenia was just one part of the Communist country, a dictatorship under Marshall Tito, and a satellite state of Soviet Russia.

A document from the Slovenian State Archives shows that Viktor (seen in 1965) was a listed member of the League of Communists

A document from the Slovenian State Archives shows that Viktor (seen in 1965) was a listed member of the League of Communists

And, as a document from the Slovenian State Archives shows, Viktor was a listed member of the League of Communists, while Amalija was not listed as a member. 

During Melania’s childhood, only five per cent of Slovenians were Communist party members and although her father did not advertise his political affiliation, it was obvious to neighbors and relatives, one person who lived in the village previously told DailyMail.com. 

And it no doubt helped both Amalija and Viktor hold down solid jobs. They said: ‘Viktor was in the Party which helped you to get government jobs or higher positions.’

It was not clear whether Viktor was ‘a true believer,’ the source acknowledged, adding, ‘Maybe he was just being pragmatic. Being in the Party made things a bit easier and meant he could help his family.’

But whether or not they believed, the Knavs’ adherence to the regime’s philosophy helped make life more bearable at a time when some goods including gas were rationed because of shortages. 

A source told DailyMail.com that Viktor's connection to the Party helped both him and Amalija (seen) get better jobs

A source told DailyMail.com that Viktor’s connection to the Party helped both him and Amalija (seen) get better jobs

Amalija (pictured in 1963) worked as a patternmaker at the state-owned children's clothing manufacturer Jutranjka, which, with 1,200 workers, was the town's best employer

Amalija (pictured in 1963) worked as a patternmaker at the state-owned children’s clothing manufacturer Jutranjka, which, with 1,200 workers, was the town’s best employer

'It was a good job to have by the standards of the time,' Melania's childhood friend has said of Amalija's job. Amalija is seen with Ines when she was young

'It was a good job to have by the standards of the time,' Melania's childhood friend has said of Amalija's job. Amalija is seen with Ines when she was young

‘It was a good job to have by the standards of the time,’ Melania’s childhood friend has said of Amalija’s job. Amalija is seen with Ines when she was young

The insider continued, ‘He had connections. He could always get little luxuries or essentials like car parts that other people couldn’t get their hands on.’

Viktor ran a shop selling parts for cars and motorcycles while working as a chauffeur for a mayor.

Viktor (seen in 1961) ran a shop selling parts for cars while working as a chaffer for a mayor. He went on to manage car and motorcycle dealerships for a vehicle manufacturer

Viktor (seen in 1961) ran a shop selling parts for cars while working as a chaffer for a mayor. He went on to manage car and motorcycle dealerships for a vehicle manufacturer

He eventually went on to manage car and motorcycle dealerships for a state-owned vehicle manufacturer. 

Amalija worked as a patternmaker at the state-owned children’s clothing manufacturer Jutranjka, which, with 1,200 workers, was the town’s best employer. 

‘It was a good job to have by the standards of the time – a leading company. It was solid and you had a good standard of living,’ Melania’s childhood best friend Nena Bedek once told DailyMail.com.

The family lived in a state-run housing complex for the early years of Melania’s life while they saved up to build their own house. They moved into the two-story abode in 1984, when Melania was 14.

But the couple’s real ticket out of adversity was to be Melania’s extraordinary looks.

The family lived in a state-run housing complex for the early years of Melania's life while they saved up to build their own house. The apartment building they lived in is seen in 2015

The family lived in a state-run housing complex for the early years of Melania’s life while they saved up to build their own house. The apartment building they lived in is seen in 2015

They then moved into the two-story abode (seen in 2015) in 1984, when Melania was 14

They then moved into the two-story abode (seen in 2015) in 1984, when Melania was 14

At just five years old, Melania was recruited to model in the the catalogues of the clothing manufacturer that her mom worked for. She's seen modeling the clothes as a kid (center)

At just five years old, Melania was recruited to model in the the catalogues of the clothing manufacturer that her mom worked for. She’s seen modeling the clothes as a kid (center)

Slovenian fashion photographer Stane Jerko helped launch her career after he discovered her at a modeling contest in 1987 when she was 17. Melania is seen in an early shoot

Slovenian fashion photographer Stane Jerko helped launch her career after he discovered her at a modeling contest in 1987 when she was 17. Melania is seen in an early shoot

At just five years old she was recruited to model in the the catalogues of the clothing manufacturer that her mom worked for – which sparked a fierce passion inside of her for fashion. 

Melania has since credited 'hardworking' parents with helping her achieve her massive success. She's seen modeling as a teen

Melania has since credited ‘hardworking’ parents with helping her achieve her massive success. She’s seen modeling as a teen

And despite being accepted at the University of Ljubljana to study architecture, she ultimately left college to pursue a career in modeling after renowned Slovenian fashion photographer Stane Jerko discovered her at a modeling contest in 1987, when she was 17. 

This chance meeting gave Melania her first real break. She moved to Milan soon after, where she landed her first modeling contract. Her career took off, and the rest is history.

Melania has since credited ‘hardworking’ parents with helping her achieve her massive success.

‘My parents worked very hard to ensure our family could not only live and prosper in America, but also contribute to a nation that allows for people to arrive with a dream and make it reality,’ she once said during a speech.

‘I want to take the moment to thank my mother and father for all that they have done for our family. It is because of you that I am standing here today.’

She also told GQ in 2016, ‘My parents are 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.’

Never forgetting where they came from: While Amalija and Viktor spent time in the US helping Melania raise her son, Barron, they continued to live ‘modestly’ and kept their home in Slovenia 

After Melania and Donald welcomed their son, Barron, in 2006, Amalja and Viktor began to split their time between Slovenia and the US. They're seen holding Barron in 2007

After Melania and Donald welcomed their son, Barron, in 2006, Amalja and Viktor began to split their time between Slovenia and the US. They’re seen holding Barron in 2007

Throughout Donald's presidency, Amalija and Viktor were spotted by their daughter and son-in-law's sides numerous times. Amalija is seen with Donald, Melania, and Barron in 2018

Throughout Donald’s presidency, Amalija and Viktor were spotted by their daughter and son-in-law’s sides numerous times. Amalija is seen with Donald, Melania, and Barron in 2018

Amalija and Viktor met Donald for the first time in 2002, when he went to visit them in Slovenia.

It was said that he arrived with Melania on his private jet about 8pm and had dinner with the couple at the Grand Hotel Toplice in Ljubljana – and by midnight, they were on their way back to the US.

That was the only time Donald ever visited his wife’s home country, and he later joked to Larry King, ‘I was there about 13 minutes.’ 

Despite their daughter’s unimaginable good fortune, Amalija and Viktor continued to live humbly, and they still own the home they had built in Slovenia the ’80s.

Neighbors insisted to DailyMail.com in 2015 – when Donald was running for President – that the couple had remained ‘modest, and were not the kind of people to brag.’

They were also often spotted traveling with the couple, and accompanied them to many big events

They were also often spotted traveling with the couple, and accompanied them to many big events

They became official US citizens in August 2018. They're seen disembarking from Air Force One a year prior, in 2017

They became official US citizens in August 2018. They’re seen disembarking from Air Force One a year prior, in 2017

Amalija and Viktor continued to live 'modestly,' according to a neighbor, and they still own the home they had built in Slovenia the '80s. They're seen in 2018

Amalija and Viktor continued to live ‘modestly,’ according to a neighbor, and they still own the home they had built in Slovenia the ’80s. They’re seen in 2018

After Melania and Donald welcomed their son, Barron, in 2006, Amalja and Viktor – who came to America for the first time two years prior – began to split their time between Slovenia and the US so they could help Melania take care of her son.

It was said that Amalja loved to cook Slovenian food for her grandson and spoke to him in Slovenian so that he could learn his mother’s native language.

Throughout Donald’s presidency, Amalija and Viktor were spotted by their daughter and son-in-law’s sides numerous times at the White House, at Trump Tower, and in Mar-a-Lago.

They were also often seen traveling with the couple, and accompanied them to many big political events – like the 2020 Republican National Convention. They became official US citizens in August 2018.



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