The castle was the ruins of a centuries-old Turkish fortress built here on the bluff above the River Zbrucz. It was one of the principle landmarks in our little town of Skala-Podolsk in the borderlands territory of 1930s Poland, just across the river from the Ukrainian Soviet republic.
To a boy of seven years old, Skala was my whole world, and the fortress, with its craggy rock walls and irregular hidden spaces, was a natural playground. Every school day, I would run home when my primary school, where we were taught in Polish, let out at 1 pm. My mameh had the dinner meal ready for me and my hard-working tateh came home from work at the tinsmith shop. After eating, I would go outside to play with friends. Most days, that left about 90 minutes of unsupervised recreation before the start of cheder, my religious training, at 3 pm.