The MelaniaLand

Take a journey through the streets of Sevnica, to discover the culture, traditions and entertainment in the hometown of the First Lady of the USA – Melania Trump.


On a cloudy evening in the middle of November, the small town of Sevnica bathes in a soft pastel colours of a setting sun. The town in rural south eastern Slovenia, with about 4500 population, was basically unknown even to a great number of Slovenians. Now it appears to be under the siege of curious reporters and journalists from around the world. Rather unsurprisingly, since the First Lady of the USA was born and has spent her childhood there, before moving about 100 kilometres north, to Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, where she made her firsts steps in the fashion industry as a young aspiring model discovered by the fashion photographer Stane Jerko who made her the first book.

read about

Small chimneys of the industrial part of Sevnica engulfed by the rising farming grounds with fertile land for vineyards and idyllic houses spread all over nearby hills. Along the slopes calmly runs the longest Slovenian river Sava, protecting the town of Sevnica and providing a place for international fishing competitions, where fishermen can expect a variety of more than 50 different species of fish to catch. At the edge of the village stands a little hill where the white as it would be drawn in a fantasy of a princess, the Sevnica castle overlooks as the guardian of the village.

It’s manager Rok Petančič shares us some thoughts about Melania and the desired future of his hometown.

“The USA election night results were a surprise for all of us. However, a part of the inhabitants believed in Turmp’s victory since the day he announced candidature. Certainly, we are happy and proud to see “our” Melania being the one who stands next to the president of the USA for the next four years. This will bring recognition, not only to Sevnica, but to the whole region, if not whole Slovenia. One of the touristic attractions in the town will include the path of Melania’s childhood in Sevnica. We are expecting an increasing number of incoming tourists form Slovenia and especially from abroad. Melania is our pride and a magnet for potential visitors. The idea of a permanent recognition of Melania as our once fellow citizen is still being developed and discussed.All of this will surely take place after an agreement with her. We respect Melania for her virtues the Slovenians are know for; hard working, respectability, calm spirit and reason. I think she will enrich the White House politics and her husband with all of this attributes while being the first lady of the USA.”

While most of the locals in Sevnica are not keen on discussing the politics of Donald Trump, it seems that pride remains the common denominator while speaking about Melania. This very pride can be seen as small gestures such as naming cake after her, or displaying jumbo billboards at the side of the road, with Melania welcoming everyone who enters her hometown. Yet, the house her family lived in before they moved to New York, remains unoccupied. As a signature, US mailbox which stands in front of the yard is closed and locked. The well maintained patch of grass surrounding the house echoes of the times when the Knavs family resided there.

This is how the acclaimed Slovenian film director Andrej Košak unwinds his memory of working with Melania back in the year 1992. It was a TV fashion show called “Trend”, for which he directed a fashion video with her. “Marina Masowietsky, a model agent recommended Melania as actress for the video. Prophetically, Melania’s role in the video was that of a president who just landed on an airport with her private jet, secured by bodyguards and surrounded with flashy limousines. We got DC-9 airplane for the video. At the time, Melania was around 21, and at the beginning of her career. The making of the video was enjoyable. To my amazement, some ten years after, I learned she has married to Donald Trump and she is now the first lady of the USA – how far seeing of me! It was pleasant to work with her, as she was hard working and ambitious. I predict her involvement in politics would be supporting charity organizations and definitely she is already a fashion icon in the making. It is on us to if we will know to make the best out of that fact. Unfortunately, we do not appreciate things as we should and that as the Slovenian nation, we still do not have the wisdom necessary to recognize the people who make a difference because of their knowledge and talent. It is not always just bread and circuses – too rarely we think about culture! Hopefully Melania will teach Slovenian women how to wear clothes more tastefully. I think her life is a reflection of the American dream. If I have to give a title to a movie about her life, it would be “ from Sevnica to the White house”. Melania’s story is unbelievable. She made it from a small country with two million souls, once ruled by a socialism into the White House”.

“Melania’s interest in fashion could be sensed already in her childhood.” explains Marjana Jelančič, who attended the primary school in Sevnica with her. Now Marjana is heading the same school as the principal. “I clearly remember occasions of Melania’s desire to stand out. Each time she got new clothes, she wanted to modify small details in order to make the clothes unique just for her. She also knew how to sew hats and fix buttons on jackets, shirts… I am not interested in the politics of Donald Trump, instead, I am happy and proud that Melania, with her traits such as hard work, talent, reason, made it so far. For me, as a citizen of Sevnica this means a lot.” Marjana was Melania’s schoolmate and a friend from about the age of ten until the age of fourteen. “Then Melania left Sevnica, to study in Ljubljana. There a fashion photographer Stane Jerko discovered her potential for modeling.”, remembers Marjana. “I am a local patriot and very happy to know her.”

Though she doubts that Melania would ever return to visit Sevnica, Marjana hopes so. She left back to her office in the school with a warm smile, mentioning that her work is suffering and her schedule being interrupted often because of the amount of journalists and reporters.

Locals of Sevnica are mostly very kind and understand the interest and attention their town is now exposed to. As the community they hope to promote their hometown to more tourists to present their tradition. One of them is Salamijada, a festival of local salami producers. The festival holds a 55 year tradition of search for the best salami producer in Sevnica. “The most interesting fact of the festival is”, adds Rok Petančič, “that no women is allowed to attend the festival, except if she offers to buy a small barrel of wine for each table. Also Melania would have to do the same if she wanted to attend the festival Salamijada.”

The road from Sevnica to the White House is long and winding. As the evening covers the roofs in Sevnica, the town’s spirit calms down and echoes of the euphoria quiet down. Bakers start baking another cake called Melania, with hopes of selling it early morning to tourists.

Seemingly Donald’s Trump victory at the USA elections united people of Sevnica, most busy with his own way to enjoy the fruits of Melania being the first lady of the USA. For the next four years, the town surely will be full of sparks in the eyes of the locals, explaining their relations to Melania.