Valeria Frolova’s video is both moving and inspirational and, the timeless tale of the impact of an absent father and the healing power of storytelling.
The scene opens on a young and vibrant young girl - blonde hair and ruby cheeked - telling her watchers what she will need to to do to survive her imminent trip to the South Pole. She is a video blogger.
In the video, which was produced by Bon-cloud, we soon learn that she is searching for something lost. She is searching for her father, who left when she was only five years of age.
The story of a girl looking for her father is not an unusual one. It is a universal story that many young women carry as part of their life narrative.
The relationship between father and daughter is such a strange and influential bond that Valeria’s mother has decided to tell her daughter an alternative story.
When she was little, instead of telling Valeria that her father had disappeared, she told her that he was at the South Pole.This gave her daughter an idealised image of a wonderful father, the honourable explorer.
She explains on camera that she thinks this was the best way to protect her daughter from feelings of abandonment, and to make sure that she has a good male role model, real or imagined.
Valeria says she still has feelings of emptiness and a pertinent longing to find for her father. She says she is waiting to reunite with her father before she posts any more video blogs.
Throughout time there have been stories told about missing fathers. You only need to go to the Grimm’s fairy tales: Cinderella is about the fate of a girl who has lost her father, Rapunzel who is separated from her father and even Snow White whose her father dies leaving her an orphan. All these examples are of fathers who play a very passive, many times unhelpful role, but are idealised and missed tenderly by their daughters. It seems fathers have to do very little to shine gloriously in their daughters eyes.
The women in these stories are fatherless, therefore in a perilous situation, unprotected but the stories centre on how they survive, and survive well, despite loosing their fathers. It seems the same is true in reality.
Valeria and her mother, two strong women standing in the kitchen, drinking Tsingtao beer and cooking together - two generations of women who have lived without this ‘lost’ male figure. They are capable, brave and strong women with an obviously warm connection.
Valeria says she has been telling the stories on her video blog that her father never told her. Perhaps in some ways this searching, this motivation, is spurring her on. She even says that eventually the videos became less of a memorial to her father and more something she did for herself.
We can clearly see the fairy-tale happy ending here, a girl rescuing herself. However one of the other reason that Valeria’s mother gives for giving her daughter a ‘fantasy’ father figure is the affect it can have on her as a woman and finding a mate.
Valeria’s fears are backed up by science. Fathers define what a daughter will subconsciously look for in a husband or romantic partner. Scientific studies have seen that from an early age children will learn what to look for in a romantic relationship by the actions of her father.
At such a defining early age, abandonment can lead to all kinds of issues later on in life - this subconscious knowledge of rejection is extremely hard to unpick as an adult. If a father has not been around there is no model of romantic relationships either, which can leave women vulnerable to abusive and unhealthy relationships.
An absent father can also lead to self-esteem issues and a sense of deep insecurity.
A father gives a daughter her first body image as well.
In North America studies showed that 72% of the population agreed that fatherlessness was the biggest social problem. Many people think that fatherlessness should be seen as a physiological trauma that needs more attention.
In the video from Bon-cloud,Valeria sits in the Chinese News restaurant in the centre of Moscow. She sits with her laptop and a glass of her favourite beer –Tsingtao. She looks capable and confident.
She talks of her own creative journey to becoming a podcaster and videographer and how the imagined image of her father gave her a sense of her identity.She then recounts why she is about to embark on this journey.
She was sitting in the same restaurant when she received a message from a Chinese girl, saying that a bottle of Tsingtao beer had been left at the Polar Bar in Ushuaia Port, Argentina, for some lucky traveller to pick up before arriving at the South Pole.
The Chinese girl hopes someone traveling to the South Pole will receive this beer for free and take it with her blessing. Valeria said she doesn’t believe in signs but on this occasion she listened – after all Tsingtao is her favourite beer!
Valeria is a very interesting case because she is a woman proactively trying to heal. She has been using the power of storytelling as a way to heal herself. Story telling is a vehicle of hope and a chance to gain wisdom.
It is hard to tell if Valeria actually believes she will meet her father at the South Pole, but sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. This hunger for something she feels is missing could be the thing that shapes her, the thing that gives her a bravery and courage that other people might not have. The journey itself might even be the thing that helps her come to terms with her fathers absence.
Either way, women are always told to be strong but it is important for them to tell their story of abandonment and deal with it head on. Valeria is doing this in her own way and it should be applauded.
Whether she should have been told the truth about her father, a truth that remains oblique, is still out for the jury.
Is it better to live in a reality of rejection, destined to make the same mistakes as past generations?
Or is it better to live with a half-truth? To invent a fantastical father, a strong and idealised man who didn’t just disappear one ordinary day, a man a daughter could feel proud of.
Although the story centres a round a man, it is really a story about women - how tough they are, how a mother protects her daughter, how another woman in Argentina encourages her to take a life changing adventure!
Valeria will have her eyes opened on her journey to the South Pole.
It is a blatant coming of age story,this journey is much more about Valeria healing as a woman as it ever was about the man who has let her down.
Life has changed; women are strong, they drink beer now and don’t really need to go searching for their fathers.
One this is certain, Valeria is really going to enjoy that Tsingtao in Argentina. There is nothing like the familiar taste of your favourite beer when you are far from home.