Melania Revisited

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Melanija Knavs, alias Melania Trump, age 16. Photo: Stane Jerko

My piece last week, Gone on the Trump Train, from the Slovenian hometown of Mrs. Donald Trump (a.k.a Melania Knauss) prompted some unexpected reactions. They were all positive. I was expecting polarized reactions at least from Slovenia, my country of birth, where opinions about Melania seemed to be as divided as the votes of Republicans and Democrats in this country.

This week, I got a letter from an online friend who I’d love to meet while I was in Slovenia, since she lives close to the town where the Knavs family is from. The timing didn’t work out, so I asked her if she could write me a note on the Melania phenomenon. Ines Drame is an experienced advertiser and adviser. She knows about product, and how to sell and promote. She was kind enough to solicit opinions from patrons at local beauty parlors about how they viewed the potential Slovenian First Lady of the U.S.

There was nothing, Ines wrote me a few days ago. It looks like Melania Knauss seems to be nothing more than a little field mouse that nobody notices in Slovenia. They certainly don’t identify with her. “Not really Slovenian to me, Melania seems to be a weird product that arrived in our country from unknown origin,” Ines writes.

Melania left her home town, Sevnica, at the age of 15 and attended a high school for design in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. But even in Ljubljana, except for some modeling photos, it seems she hasn’t left any trace behind.

She is not an American immigrant from Slovenia, she is an assimilant, who could come to New York from any place on earth, Ines writes. As she brilliantly puts it, if you are Slovenian you have to belong. Ours is a small tribe. And Melania does not show any signs of belonging. In relation to Slovenian identity this could be her strong point and our predicament writes Ines. Sure in relation to American public opinion she might have an exotic appeal and might arouse American desire to hear her story and learn more about her country. This story, concludes Ines, has marketing potential only as an American story, with little connection to her (and my) homeland.

As I read and reread Ines’ answers, I couldn’t help but feel a bit closer to Melania Trump. I too have moved from country to country . If you are Slovenian like me, being a wandering soul from a lost tribe is actually a permanent existential condition.

Also published on Medium.

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