How Slovenia Really Feels About Melania Trump

The town of Sevnica was a largely forgotten medieval dot in Central Slovenia until it became known for World War II atrocities that are marked with mass graves. During its postwar years as a communist country, it became a furniture-making center with a centuries-old castle to call its own (via VOA). It probably wasn't much, and the townspeople might have felt the same way about the place they lived. But when Donald Trump became president, the town became an international attraction as the birthplace of First Lady Melania Trump, who entered the world as Melanija Knavs.

The First Lady left Sevnica when she was just a teen to live in the capital city of Ljubljana, where she became a model. From there there were trips to Milan, Italy and Paris, France, and then to New York where she met Donald Trump in 1999. By this time, Melanija Knavs had become Melania Knauss, and she dated Trump for a year, broke it off, and resumed their relationship later. In 2004, Trump asked her to marry him (via VOA).

While it may have been quite some time since the former Melanija Knavs has been in her home town, and while some Slovenians say they feel U.S. First Lady Melania Trump may have forgotten the country of her birth, Sevnica hasn't forgotten about their most famous daughter to date. "We're a small country so everybody who succeeds in the big world is a story of success," resident Roberto Gorenc told ABC in 2016.

Sevnica saw an explosion of Melania Trump food and wine

After Trump's win, Sevnica saw an explosion of Melania-themed pastries — one was a cake created by baker Nusa Vidmar. "We were very proud of Melania's success," she told VOA in 2016. "She used to be one of us and we are really happy for her, so everything what we do is making cakes, so we create simple but luxury cake that was, we wanted to have a beautiful cake like she is." Then there was the First Lady Apple Pie, decorated with the letter "M" and an American flag. "It's just incredible to me that a simple girl from Sevnica could make it so far," Maya Popadic, who created the pastry says (via USA Today).

Four enterprising local winemakers even got together to release a wine made from the local Blaufränkisch grape variety in her honor. The wine was called "First Lady" and went on sale at Sevnica Castle — the first 300 bottles sold out in three days. The bottles were sold for just under 28 Euros, which cost twice as much as the shop's other wines made with the same grape variety. The wine was described as gentle like Melania by its vintners (via Decanter). 

Melania Trump hired a legal team to crack down on the use of her image

Aside from the merch, the local tourism bureau organized a "Melania" tour which shows off all the places a young Melania might have gone to when she lived there, there was also plenty of other Melania-themed merch. Locals were peddling honey jars (from the First Lady's home garden, of course), pancakes with gold dust, beauty cream, dark chocolate, and tea (via ABC).

While Melania the First Lady has helped create Melania the cottage industry for Sevnica, Melania and Team Trump decided they needed to crack down on those who might use her image and name in a way she didn't particularly like. The First Lady then retained a legal firm in Ljubljana so that foods and other local products would no longer be named after her. The firm's director, Natasa Pirc Musar told ABC that "We just want to draw public attention to the fact that the words Trump, Melania, and Melania Trump are protected trademarks on one hand and that use of Mrs. Trump's image, name and characteristic features used for commercial purposes may amount to her personality rights infringements on the other. We issued a press release and sent it to all Slovenian media. Now we count on people's prudence to stop the practice."

Melania Trump's lawyers were looking for specific infringements

The lawyer said at the time that she was only concerned about specific items. "A huge billboard in Sevnica with Melania's picture, erected by a private web company for commercial purposes, is problematic," as are "honey jars from 'Melania's home garden' with Melania's image and Slovenian and American flags. In Slovenia and most of Europe this represents a violation of personality rights," she told ABC. Pirc Musar also said at the time that she was less concerned about pastries. [It's] not a problem. No photo or last name is attached to it. We personally tasted it (a strawberry yogurt-themed breakfast dessert named Melanija) and it's very good," she said. 

The First Lady's legal crackdown didn't appear to kill the love; another baker, Franja Krajnic tells USA Today in 2018, a year after the warnings were issued, "There is only one First Lady and she has said that she is teaching her son Barron some Slovenian. Her husband, though, he is too aggressive."