Pila is a town of 80 thousand in Greater Poland that is beautifully set near the River Gwda, far from big cities and highly developed industry. It is no surprise that tourism flourishes here, thanks to the untainted natural environment, glacial lakes, and pinewoods that cover about 25% of the region.
Pila’s role is to be the main trade and business centre of the northern Greater Poland, and local industry includes electronics and precision engineering, agriculture and food processing, tourism, and business services. There are plenty of green areas within the Pila region. Probably the most interesting are the “Kuznik” and the Park on the Island reserves; the latter being situated between two branches of the Gwda River. There are several lakes, with the most popular being the Plotki, providing good conditions to relax in. The town is surrounded by woods and there are several rivers nearby, all good for that favourite of Polish pastimes – river canoeing. Among the main historic sights in Pila is the modernist church of St Anthony of Padua; which has a great figure of Jesus Christ on the Cross, one of the largest of its type in Europe and it towers above a huge altar. Another place worth visiting is the Stanislaw Staszic Museum, which possesses an exhibition of memorabilia connected with this great 19th century philanthropist (and the town’s most famous citizen). Another interesting place on the outskirts of Pila is Osieka, the open-air living museum of Polish rural life with its rich collection of cottage utensils, agricultural tools, religious items and other relics of community ceremonies.
Administratively, Pila belongs to the Greater Poland Voivodship, but geographically it lies between Greater Poland and Western Pomerania. It is situated on the River Gwda, close to the place where it empties into the Notec.
The first records of Pila date back to the 14th century when these lands were the property of Pomeranian Dukes, and later of the Teutonic Knights. In 1368 Pila was incorporated by the Polish king, Casimir the Great. The name of the town (“pila” in Polish means “saw”) came from the sawmill that operated there in the 14th century. The first map we can find it on dates from the year 1449. In 1512 or 1513 the town was granted city rights. Throughout most of its life Pila was known as Schneidemühl, belonging as it did to Germany. It was developed intensely during the second half of the 19th century after the opening of a railway connection with Bydgoszcz, with trains travelling at all of 36 km/h! Pila soon underwent a process of industrialisation. The second decade of the 20th century saw production start of the Albatros type of aircraft. During World War II the Germans began to use the facility for work on jet planes. It became a Polish town after World War II, but it had been destroyed as it was unfortunately situated on the main defence line of Hitler’s army. For this reason the remaining monuments from pre-war life are sparse.