Free, Melania: “The Joy of Being Slovenian is Hiding Your Feelings”

By , 04 Dec 2019, 15:11 PM Lifestyle
The cover of the book, twice The cover of the book, twice

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A new book was published on Melania Trump yesterday, 3 December, and so we raced to the index and found all the references to Slovenia, curious to see how the country would be reflected in Free, Melania: The unauthorized biography, written by Kate Bennett, a reporter who covers the First Lady for CNN.

So far we’ve only read “the Slovenian parts” in detail, and with our Total Slovenia hat on it must be said that the book falls short when it comes to introducing aspects of the country that relate to Melania, from the 1970s on, to the wider world. A much better work in that regard being Sandi Gorišek’s Melania Trump: The Slovenian Side of the Story (which can be found on Amazon here, with the Kindle version being free. Our interview with the author is here.)

But what did I learn about Slovenia from the book, chapter 4 of which it titled “The Girl from Slovenia”? Mostly that Slovenians don’t smile, and that they are stoic and suffer in silence, as seen in the following excerpts:

What most people don’t understand is Melania’s heritage and the country in which she was born. In Slovenia, smiling a nongenuine smile isn’t really a thing. Admittedly, it’s a tad disconcerting when shopping in an outdoor market, making eye contact with a vendor, asking a hotel bellhop if they mind carrying a heavy bag, or soliciting a waiter about what he suggests from the menu. “We just don’t always feel like we have to pretend to be when we aren’t,” one of Melania’s old high school classmates from Slovenia told me.

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One aspect of Melania Trump that people find most troubling is that she doesn’t smile. But if you understand Slovenians, you know they are not a grinning country.

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…as one of Melania’s former Slovenian high school classmates told me, revealing emotional hardship or being dramatic simply isn’t something Slovenes do. The joy of being Slovenian is hiding your feelings.

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She didn’t want anyone to know she was sick [in April 2018, when she was hospitalized for a kidney complaint], her Slovenian upbringing compelling her to accept the bad news without showing it on her face, rejecting any impulse to slow down or ask for help or show the slightest hint of weakness.

There are also some references to Slovenia in terms of Melania’s family and home life, although Bennett makes a point to keep details of Barron Trump to a minimum:

Slovenian mothers are notorious for not being able to let go of their children; Melania is no exception.

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Ultimately, Viktor and Amalija [Melania’s parents] have spent so much time with Barron, watching him, looking after him, staying with him when his parents travel, that he is fluent in Slovenian. Those who have spent time with him say that he has a slight Slovenian accent.

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She is a product of where she came from, and that she typifies an old Slovenian proverb: the woman of the house controls three of its corners; the man, just one. Melania is definitely a woman very much in control of her three corners.

And with regard to Slovenia when it was still part of Yugoslavia, and how it shaped the character of the people:

Communism in Slovenia shaped a generation who was willing to settle for, who even expected and was grateful for, the bare minimum. President Josip Broz Tito, the communist leader of Yugoslavia, ingrained in his people that being humble was noble and that standing out was bad. The general thought about Yugoslavia at the time was that if communism was going to be the rule, they had it better than most other communist countries. Tito taught his people to keep their heads down and not lust for anything special. It was a lifestyle that created an intensely private population of mind-your-own-business types.

All in all, while the book has plenty of salacious details on the life of the First Lady - as seen in all the other reviews - it’s rather slim pickings for anyone seeking to learn more about the country of her birth, but perhaps the blame – or credit – for this should go to Nataša Pirc Musar, rather than the author. Pirc Musar is the formidable lawyer who keeps a close eye on Melania Trump’s interests in Slovenia, and does her job very well.

All our stories on Melania Trump can be found here

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