The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Ivana Trump

When Ivana Trump divorced billionaire husband Donald in 1992, thereby ending the preeminent New York City "It couple" relationship of the 1980s, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter predicted that she would be forgotten from history: "Who remembers the wife that William Randolph Hearst left for Marion Davies?" (via Chicago Tribune). Ivana, along with proven history, would have taken issue with that. Far from the gold and marble halls of the Trump Tower — but still within the domain of New York, her favorite city — Ivana managed to carve out her own reputation as a successful businesswoman. She built a fashion empire that sold products on the Home Shopping Network and QVC. She invested in her own real estate and wrote bestselling books.

And even when she was with Donald, Ivana was never in his shadow. She was the vice president of interior design for the Trump Organization. She arguably commandeered his public brand of wealth, in all of its gaudy glory, paving the way for his future television career. And, famously, she coined the moniker "the Donald." Ivana maintained a connection to the Trump empire through their children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump. But this all came to a close when she tragically died in her home on July 14, 2022, according to the New York Times

A tough, upstart woman, Ivana had her fair share of adversity to deal with. Read on for tragic details about her life.

Ivana Trump escaped communism through marriage

Ivana Trump, born Ivana Zelnickova, was raised in the small Czechoslovakian town of Zlín. Her mother was a telephone operator, and her father was an electrical engineer. Her country was under communist rule, and everyone in the nation was required to have jobs. Citizens lined up for food rations, and clothing was hand-sewn at home. The country lacked the materialism and extravagance that would satisfy a material girl like the future Ivanka Trump, so she took the earliest opportunity to escape. Athletes in the country were allowed to travel abroad, and Ivana had trained as a skier. As part of her junior national ski team, she was able to visit Italy and Austria, per Newsweek. These trips left their mark; Ivana fell in love with the West.

In an interview with Newsweek, Ivana's mother, Marie Zelnickova, said that she was ambitious and keen on leaving Czechoslovakia. However, in order to visit her parents in the future, Ivana needed to find a way to leave legally. She married a friend, Austrian skier Alfred Winklmayr, in order to obtain an Austrian passport. With a legitimate license to leave, Ivana was able to settle in Canada and, later, in the United States. In her memoir "Raising Trump," she admitted that the marriage wasn't real and Winklmayr was aware of it. The union lasted for two years, per CNN.

Czechoslovakia invaded her privacy

Once Ivana Zelnickova married Donald Trump, her country of origin proceeded to spy on their private lives. According to The Guardian, a Cold War-era dossier from Czechoslovakia revealed that the country began keeping tabs on Ivana and Donald in 1977 — the year they got married. It was also at a time when Ivana regularly visited her father, making trips back and forth between the United States and Czechoslovakia. The report also contained information about Ivana's personal history. It included details about her journey from a petrol worker in Austria in 1968, where she married her first husband, to her move to Canada and the United States.

In 1979, the Státní bezpečnost, the country's intelligence agency, ordered phone calls between Ivana and her father to be tapped at least once a year. Further, in order for her father to be allowed to travel to the United States, he was forced to keep in touch with the agency. He was therefore labeled as a "confidant." Their mail was also monitored. Donald Trump was of particular interest to Czech intelligence because his presidential aspirations had implications for U.S.-Czech relations. The dossier made note of his visit to the town of Slusovice, where Ivana's father lived. Ivana was reportedly under pressure to avoid making a mistake during trips to Czechoslovakia that would put Donald's potential candidacy at risk, per The Guardian.

Ivana Trump's marriage to Donald Trump was full of problems

Ivana Trump made some very revealing comments in court documents during her divorce from Donald Trump. She called him verbally abusive and demeaning and said that his treatment of her was "cruel and inhuman." Before they even considered divorce, Donald placed a clause in their prenuptial agreement that would require Ivana to turn over all marital gifts if they separated, per the New York Daily News.

Even more alarming were Ivana's allegations during a divorce deposition. According to "Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump," Donald was angry at Ivana for a botched scalp reduction surgery he had done by her plastic surgeon. He pulled at her hair, ripping it off from her scalp, and proceeded to sexually assault her. She told close friends afterward that he raped her. Donald denied the incident or the surgery, and in 2015, his lawyer questioned whether a person could rape their spouse within marriage. 

When "Lost Tycoon" was printed in 1993, Ivana confirmed that she "felt violated" but said she did not mean for it to be interpreted criminally. She walked back the comments even further in 2015 when the deposition quotes were printed in The Daily Beast, saying the article was baseless and the quotes came amid a bitter divorce battle. Ivana emphasized her recent relationship with Donald Trump, which was amicable, and she wished him well on his presidential campaign (via The Daily Beast).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She often parented alone

Ivana Trump wanted full credit for raising Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Trump Jr., per CNN. And it seems like she deserved it. In an interview with "The Ray D'Arcy Show," Ivana said that Donald Trump never changed a diaper (via Newsweek). She described him as an uninvolved father who would never push a stroller or take his kids to the park. He was so absorbed in his work that he couldn't be bothered to drop off his kids at school. In fact, the Trump children would travel from their penthouse suite in the Trump Tower to the 28th floor where Trump worked to say goodbye in the morning. He also had trouble communicating with them as children but was more engaged once they were adults. Despite all this, Ivana still considered him a loving father.

Donald basically confirmed all of this when interviewed on the "Opie and Anthony" show in 2005 (via Buzzfeed News). He acknowledged that some men agree to "act like the wife" when it comes to parenting — which he said included changing diapers — but that sort of arrangement wasn't for him, and he wouldn't have had kids with a woman who expected that from him. He scoffed at the idea of walking his kids in Central Park during a Howard Stern interview (via Buzzfeed News). Instead, he sees his role as limited to a breadwinner who pays for the costs of his children.

Donald Trump cheated on Ivana with a model

Ivana Trump learned that her marriage was over when she was approached in public by Donald Trump's mistress, Marla Maples. Maples told Ivana that she was in love with Donald, and Ivana told her to "get lost," according to her memoir "Raising Trump" (via The Daily Beast). Ivana was in shock and perhaps unprepared for the resulting tabloid whirlwind that documented their separation. It all began during the 1989 Christmas holidays in Aspen, where the Trumps were staying for vacation. Donald had Maples on hand in the same town as his wife, without Ivana's knowledge. Witnesses recalled seeing Donald walking with his arm around a blond who wasn't his wife. All three even attended the same party at one point. After Ivana was confronted by Maples, people saw Ivana and Donald arguing while they were skiing, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Ivana maintained a tense relationship with Maples for the rest of her life. In her memoir, Ivana refused to forgive her, cheekily saying she was comfortable with her resentment. Maples didn't feel the same way. In 2016, Maples told People that the animosity between them made her feel "sad." She said she never meant to hurt Ivana through her affair with Trump and enjoyed the close relationship she maintained with Donald's three children. She wanted her daughter, Tiffany, to be more than half-siblings to Ivana's own.

Her divorce from Donald Trump was messy

Ivana Trump's divorce experience was so bad that she played Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" during depositions to keep her spirits up, according to her memoir "Raising Trump" (via CNN). Although the couple separated in 1989, the divorce wasn't finalized until 1992. Ivana was given an annual allowance, but Donald tried to undermine it by hiring private detectives to follow her for evidence that she was being supported by a boyfriend, per MSN. Donald's lawyer also insulted Ivana's abilities to speak English, thereby undercutting the legitimacy of her prenup. But Ivana wasn't one to mess with; she alleged that Donald tried to undervalue his estate in one of their prenuptial agreements. And although Donald tried to avoid child support as much as possible, he was eventually made to pay $300,000 a year, per New York Daily News. In the end, Ivana walked away with $14 million plus a mansion in Connecticut, per MSN. Not too shabby.

But Ivana still had to deal with the public humiliation. Publicity of their divorce attracted global attention, which her attorney said was painful for her to experience, per the New York Times.

Ivana Trump's father died amid her divorce battle

​​If losing a 12-year marriage wasn't enough, Ivana Trump also lost her father. Only a year after discovering her husband's affair, her father, Miloš Zelníček, died of a heart attack. He was an engineer who lived his remaining days in Prague, Czechoslovakia, per Buffalo News. Ivana's journey out of Czechoslovakia and into the Trump dynasty was in part thanks to her father. When Ivana was a young child, she was in poor health and spent time in an incubator as an infant. Miloš encouraged her to ski and try other sports in order to improve her health, per She later met a skier in Austria and acquired a passport in order to visit Miloš in the future. Trump's mother, Marie, said that Miloš aided her in ambitions and treated her like a boy, per Newsweek.

Although they were in the middle of a bitter divorce battle, Donald Trump had developed a good relationship with his father-in-law and accompanied Ivana to the funeral. Donald's arrival was a memorable event in the town of Zlín, where the funeral was held. It was a small ceremony and attended mostly by close family, according to the Czech news site iDNES

Ivana's children frequently visited the town to see their grandparents, and Donald Jr. became fluent in Czech.

All of her marriages didn't last

Although Ivana Trump's first marriage was technically fake, her other marriages didn't last either. She married three more times, and they all ended in divorce. In 1995, she married again after Donald Trump, this time to a wealthy Italian businessman named Riccardo Mazzucchelli. They divorced only two years later, in 1997, per Biography.

Ivana took a stab at married life again when she tied the knot with Rossano Rubicondi in 2008. Their wedding was unique since it took place at her ex's estate, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. The ceremony was even officiated by Donald Trump's sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry. But the relationship was controversial among her family. At the wedding, Donald Jr. threatened to kill Rubicondi if he hurt his mother, per Town & Country. And when they divorced, Rubicondi lashed out at Ivana's children, saying they were rude to him and only cared about money, per an interview with Page Six. Their marriage lasted less than a year, and Ivana cited geographic reasons for their split; she wanted to live in New York, while Rubicondi wanted to live in Miami and Milan. Donald Trump himself said he didn't approve of the marriage and said it was "unfortunate" it occurred in the first place. He didn't think Rubicondi was a good match, per the New York Post.

Ivana Trump was resented by Donald Trump's other wives

Ivana Trump wasn't interested in kinship with Donald's other wives. In fact, she refused to say Marla Maples' name and referred to her as "the showgirl" in her memoir "Raising Trump" (via CNN). Her relationship with his current wife, Melania Trump, was similarly fraught. Ivana caused a bit of a rift when she referred to herself as the First Lady during the first year of Donald's presidency. In an interview with ABC News, she said she had a direct line to the White House but never used it as a courtesy to Melania, so as to not make her jealous. But she believed herself to be the true First Lady since she was Donald's first wife. Melania responded angrily in a rare statement and called Ivana's comments "attention-seeking and self-serving." She inferred that Ivana was only concerned with selling books, per CNN.

Ivana was critical of Melania's abilities to be First Lady from the start. Speaking to the New York Daily News, Ivana criticized Melania's reserve and silence around politics and referred to her as Donald's "third wife." Daughter Ivanka Trump told her mother that Melania was offended by the article, and Ivana texted Melania to reconcile. In her book, Ivana said she was rooting for Melania as First Lady and believed she would do the job well. Unable to resist herself, however, she said she couldn't imagine Melania doing the garden work that Michelle Obama did, per CNN.

She was devastated by the death of a former husband

Although Ivana Trump and Rossano Rubicondi divorced long ago, she still cared for him and was devastated when he died in 2021. He was 49 years old and had been battling melanoma skin cancer for a year. Ivana and Rubicondi's marriage ended in 2009, but they had maintained a relationship since. Ivana attributed their separation to their long-distance relationship but said their divorce was amicable, per the New York Post. In 2018, they danced together on Italy's version of "Dancing With the Stars" — "Ballando Con le Stelle" — as guest competitors, per People.

Rubicondi was an Italian model and actor who starred in "L'Isola dei Famosi" — the Italian celebrity version of "Survivor." Despite a 23-year age gap, Ivana and Rubicondi married after six years of dating. Their marriage was bumpy due to the long-distance nature of it, per People. After their divorce, they spent time together at Ivana's Florida home, and she was even willing to invest in his idea for a healthy pizzeria, per New York Post. According to Rubicondi's parents, Ivana asked if she could keep half of his ashes. They informed Italian media that Ivana was his primary caretaker when he became ill, per People. His death took a toll on her, and her friend, Nikki Haskell, told "Good Day New York" that Ivana wasn't her usual self in the aftermath (via Fox5NY). She died less than a year after he did.

Ivana Trump suffered from health problems in her final months

Ivana had become a recluse in the final years of her life. She was afraid of getting infected with COVID-19 and refused to leave her townhouse, where she lived alone. She took the virus more seriously than anyone in her friend group, according to close friend Nikki Haskell (via the New York Post). But her reluctance to leave her home was partly due to mobility issues, caused by pain in her hip. Friend Zach Erdem told the New York Post that Trump was forced to stay home due to physical pain and couldn't visit one of her favorite New York City restaurants that Erdem owned. He suggested visiting the doctor, but she thought that would only make matters worse. And whenever she did go out, she needed a friend by her side for physical support.

The origins of her mobility problems stemmed from her past as a professional skier, as well as a fall she took when she tripped over someone's purse at a restaurant. Her emotional health was impacted, as well, by the death of her ex-husband Rossano Rubicondi. Although she denied suffering from depression, she admitted to Haskell that she was sad, per the New York Post.

Her death was a tragic accident

Initial reports of Ivana Trump's death indicated that she died due to natural causes, per CBS News, since the New York Fire Department said it responded to a report of an individual suffering a cardiac arrest. But the New York City Medical Examiner revealed that Ivana died of "blunt impact injuries" to her torso as a result of falling down the stairs, per Bloomberg. Her death was ruled an accident.

Ivana's personal aide and a cleaning lady tried to get into contact with their boss to no avail. They called a maintenance worker to get the door open, and he found Ivana's body next to a cup of spilled coffee, per the New York Post. Ivana's tragic and fatal accident came after friends voiced concerns about her staircase. Friend Nikki Haskell told the New York Post that her staircase was "treacherous," and she feared that Ivana would one day fall. Haskell refused to live at the home because of the steepness of the staircase. Another visitor to the Manhattan townhouse said the home had not been renovated, and the carpet on the stairs was worn.