Ivana Trump Used Her Love For The Slopes To Escape The Soviet Union

The name Ivana Trump is synonymous with wealth and luxury. As real estate mogul Donald Trump's first wife, Ivana had an opulent lifestyle that continued even after the pair divorced in 1992. However, the late socialite didn't always have a glamorous life. Ivana Trump was born Ivana Marie Zelnickova in Zlin, Czechoslovakia, which was then part of the Soviet Union. According to the BBC, Ivana began skiing when she was 4-year-olds. Speaking about her hobby, she told People, "When you are going down a mountain at 80 miles an hour, you cannot count on Mama or Papa. You have to count only on Ivana."

Ivana excelled at the sport and landed a spot on the junior national ski team, allowing her to travel outside the Soviet Union. Ultimately, these excursions outside of communist countries changed Ivana's life forever. A former boyfriend and fellow skier George Syrovatka explained (via Vanity Fair), "She has acquired the taste of the Western world: freedom, fashion, money." 

While Ivana wanted to leave behind the Soviet Union for good and live a life where she could acquire these things, there was a problem. Leaving Czechoslovakia illegally could be risky. Thus Ivana decided to marry an Austrian skier, Alfred Winklmayr, in 1971. Through this marriage, she acquired an Austrian passport, meaning she could freely travel to and from the Soviet Union. Ivana left Czechoslovakia for Montreal, Canada, using her Austrian passport, and became a ski instructor.

Ivana Trump met Donald Trump after her divorce

Although Ivana Trump's marriage to Alfred Winklmayr allowed her to leave the Soviet Union, she wrote in her memoir "Raising Trump" that it was a marriage of convenience, not love (via CNN). The New York Times states the two did not live together throughout their union and that Ivana referred to it as a "Cold War Marriage." Ivana and Winklmayr divorced in 1973. By 1976, Ivana had gone to New York for a modeling job, where she first met Donald Trump

Ivana told The New York Post that she and Donald began a relationship after he helped her and a friend get a table at a bar in the Upper East Side. The pair married in 1977 and had three children: Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric. Together, the Trumps built a real estate empire, with Ivana involved in the interior design of Trump Tower and other projects. 

That said, many credit Ivana for Donald's success. In the documentary "The Ivana Trump Story: The First Wife," Ivana's friend Nikki Haskell said, "If Ivana hadn't been involved in his business, there would have been no business" (via Vanity Fair). The Trumps lived large and became household names in the process. However, the good times did not last. Donald began a relationship with another woman, Marla Maples, and their marriage began to disintegrate.

Ivana Trump met Marla Maples on a ski slope

In 1989, the Trumps were vacationing in the ski town of Aspen, Colorado. It's here that Ivana had her first encounter with Donald's mistress, Marla Maples. In "Raising Trump," Ivana wrote that Maples went up to her and said, "I'm Marla, and I love your husband. Do you?" To which Ivana replied, "Get lost. I love my husband." According to Vanity Fair, Ivana then immediately confronted Donald, and he attempted to flee the scene on skis. The Daily Mail reported that Ivana followed Donald and skied backward while she reprimanded her unfaithful husband. 

What followed was a messy and very public divorce splattered all over the tabloids. Nevertheless, the Trumps shielded their children from the fallout of their split and finalized their divorce in 1992. Trump went on to marry Maples in 1993 before divorcing in 1999. Despite their acrimonious divorce, Ivana and Donald kept in touch throughout the years and were on good terms at the time of her death in 2022. 

When news of Ivana's death came to light, Donald released a statement that described her as a "wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life, per The Independent. Donald attended her funeral alongside the pair's three children.