THE RIVER INA
The longest, at about 130 km, of the lower Odra’s right-bank tributaries; along its banks lie the towns of Stargard, Recz and Goleniow.
Legend has it that the devil carved out the meandering Ina, just to annoy the Pomeranians. To do his handiwork, he yoked together a couple of bickering witches, who pulled the plough in opposite directions. Despite this hellish start, the Ina’s water, when drawn on Easter morning, will cure any eye ailment.
For centuries, the Ina was of such importance to Stargard that its image was found, along with the Pomeranian griffin, on the town’s coat of arms. Navigable for a thousand years, the Ina was the deciding factor in the development, prosperity and power of the medieval port town. Until the end of the 19th century, it was such an efficient waterway that it allowed Stargard to become, from the 14th century onwards, the largest wheat exporter in the whole of Western Pomerania. Goods were loaded onto barges at the port, located within the town’s fortifications (an interior port was a unique feature, not only in Pomerania) on an island surrounded by two river branches (no longer in existence), which also served as loading canals, and greatly increased the efficiency of Stargard’s port. At the mouth of the Ina, which also formed part of Stargard’s territory, the goods were reloaded onto sea transport vessels. The wealth and independence of the town were the source of many conflicts with its competitors; Goleniow and Szczecin (in spite of the ducal privilege of free navigation) persistently attempted to disrupt Stargard’s trading activities by, for example, limiting the Ina’s flow. In the 15th century, it even came to open conflict with Szczecin (the “wheat wars”). This was at a time when the two towns were of equal status and lay in different duchies. The inhabitants and armed mercenaries skirmished on both land and water, and fighting in what was Pomerania’s largest trade war was only brought to a halt by a truce at Kobylanka.
The Ina also powered the duke’s great mill, and in later years, from the 18th century onwards, the town mill, while the Krapiel and Little Ina tributaries ran other mills in Stargard. The river also supplied locals with fish, and protected the town with its marshes and backwaters in front of the walls and ramparts, as well as supplying the majority of the deep moats with water, through a system of weirs.
The river Ina was also an invaluable help to Stargard’s artisans, in particular the textile workers, whose fulling mills were powered by the water, and the tanners, and in later years, the river’s role played a vital role in local industries. The inhabitants also used the river as their source of water and as a place of leisure.
The river was not without its dangers, however. Spring tides and frequent flooding, often serious, led to the construction of flood defences including canals and reservoirs.
The Ina today is on the way back to becoming a fisherman’s river, its central channel, the canal system, irrigates a wide range of crops and it has a good reputation as a pleasant spot for some canoeing.