Ivana Trump’s Unexpected Talent That Helped Her Escape Communist Czechoslovakia


Ivana Trump was most well known for her style and beauty, and of course, for being President Donald Trump’s first wife and mother to Donald, Jr, Ivanka, and Eric. Yet it wasn’t her sense of fashion that brought her to the West in the 1970s, escaping the communist rule in her native Czechoslovakia. Her first love and the skill that first set her on a path toward the former president was skiing. 

Early Days On The Mountains

Ivana was born Ivana Zelníčková in the town of Zlín, now located on the eastern edge of the Czech Republic. She started skiing competitively at age four, and soon she was good enough to compete with the National junior team, traveling throughout Europe and the world. Some reports claim that she was even an alternate on the Czechoslovakian Olympic team in 1972, though that claim was later disputed by the national team in 1989.

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What isn’t disputed though is that skiing is what brought her to her first husband, an Austrian ski instructor named Alfred Winklmayr, whom she married in 1971. Through Winklmayr, she obtained an Austrian passport, allowing her to legally leave Communist Czechoslovakia, something very rare at the height of the Cold War. Winklmayr and Ivana divorced just a year later after he moved to Los Angeles. 

Skiing Continued To Play A Role 

Ivana reconnected with an old flame, George Syrovatka, who had defected to Canada in 1971. Soon, Ivana was working with Syrovatka as a ski instructor in Quebec. While skiing during the day, she attended English classes at McGill University and began modeling. While she wasn’t a competitive skier in the 1976 Olympics, she did work as a model in promotional material for the Montreal games. 

Finally, in 1976, she was with a group of models that traveled to New York City for work and she met Donald Trump, whom she would marry just a year later before having their first child, Donald, Jr. in late 1977. Ivanka would come along in 1981, and Eric would make the family complete in 1984. The two divorced in the 1990s, but that’s a story for a different day.

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