I want to tell you how I got my nom de guerre and why. Because it’s a funny story.
When I was traveling to my military training, I dressed all in black, simply because it’s practical. I arrived at the base in the West of Ukraine. I hadn’t got my uniform yet, so I went to lunch in my civilian clothes. There were five women of my mother’s age and older in the canteen handing out the food. I’m a vegan, so I leaned over and very quietly and modestly (because I didn’t know the catering rules there, whether it was possible to choose a meal at all) I asked:
«Ma'am, can you just give me a meat-free meal, please?»
The woman I asked got in a bit of a state for a little while (it looked like I was the first to have made that kind of request). Her colleague was looking a little puzzled: he’s dressed all in black, has a beard, he’s fasting, he’s quiet and polite — then bingo! — it suddenly dawned on her and she pushed the first lady:
«Honey, why are you just standing there, don’t you understand who he is?» — and then she addressed me: — «Just a moment, we’ll do everything for you!»
And she smiled at me with a warm smile: not in a feminine way, not even in a motherly way, rather with a kind of blissful gratitude. So I thought she realized I was vegan and was supporting me. So, I smiled and wholeheartedly thanked her for my dinner.
When I came to eat the next time, the women and old ladies began to smile at me with those strange smiles:
«Good afternoon, we thought of you, here you are.»
And they gave me a huge portion of meat-free food.
I was glad to come across such understanding during my military service. But one day, I was alarmed when at breakfast one of the women leaned forward a little, as if bowing, while handing me another portion of meat-free food. It was so unexpected that I also bowed in response and went off to eat very surprised.
Everything became clear within a few days. The women smiled warmly when they saw me, sometimes we bowed slightly to each other, they stuffed me with food. But a new young girl appeared in the drinks department, and when I went through the meal handover ceremony, I heard an old lady saying to the newcomer behind my back:
«And this is the chaplain of the brigade.»
Only then did things clear up — those blessed smiles and bows.
But there was a boisterous queue of soldiers waiting to be served, that’s why I didn’t shout out, «It's a mistake, I’m not a chaplain! You gave those large portions to a simple vegan, not to a priest, please forgive me, for goodness' sake!»
I simply left and, what’s more, next time I didn’t say anything either. Not only because «Good afternoon, I’m not a chaplain» would sound very stupid, but also because they were quarreling, and when I came in, they immediately lowered their voices and greeted me graciously. If their belief that I’m a chaplain makes them replace their scold with a smile, why then dispel it, I thought and went to eat my meal.
There was no more opportunity to tell them the truth. Before they decided to come to me to confess or ask for blessings, our military unit was transferred, and we never saw each other again. But the guys from my unit still laugh at the fact that we bowed to each other, and so they gave me the nom de guerre «Chaplain».
Pavlo, Donetsk Oblast