Small Book, Big Story

Phyllis Balsano and Meredith Johnson. (Photo by Ruth Ann Angus)

MORRO BAY Immigration is in the news these days sometimes with heart-wrenching stories but we have an immigration story right here in Morro Bay that will warm your heart.

Born 92 years ago in Montana to Italian immigrants, Phyllis Balsano, spent her youth in Italy when her family returned there in 1930. She lives now in Morro Bay and recently decided to tell her life story in a memoir that was compiled by her friend Meredith Johnson and published in book form.

Phyliis’ story is interesting on more than one front with some of the tale explaining how an Italian family happened to come to a state in the western part of the United States in the first place, then returning to their motherland and living through World War II.

Many Italian families suffered through that war but hopefully not too many of them endured the situation that Phyllis experienced when Moroccan Mercenaries fighting French Colonial soldiers in her town took to raping, abusing and killing women. “It is one of my worst memories,” she explained as she told how approximately 3000 women ages 11 to 86 were raped and 60,000 were abused. Many of these women died. Phyllis’ memories were brought to life in a film entitled “Two Women” starring Sophia Loren that told of some of these atrocities, although she says there really was no way to capture the true essence of these war experiences.

The memoir tells some of her parents and grandparents life as well as her two marriages, return to the United States, her Christian faith, and her move to Morro Bay. Phyllis has been a member of the First Christian Church in Morro Bay and enjoyed a book signing party there during the month of June. The book is filled with photos of Phyllis’ family and places in Italy during the war. It may be a small book, but it is a big story.

You can purchase the book at Coalesce Bookstore on Main Street in Morro Bay.


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