“Beirut lives by the wind that comes from the sea.”Lady Yvonne Sursock Cochrane
Having spent her life upholding art and culture in Lebanon, one of the few prominent figures in philanthropy, Lady Yvonne Sursock Cochrane, paved the way for promoting the welfare of others in the country.
A defender of Lebanon’s heritage, Lady Cochrane left a legacy that goes beyond being a socialite and a name to remember.
A member of the aristocratic Sursock family, one of the oldest representatives of Lebanon’s heritage, Lady Sursock suffered injuries to her lungs as a result of the explosion and passed away on Monday, August 31, 2020.
The 98-year-old public figure was at her family’s Sursock Palace, one of Beirut’s landmarks, when the explosion happened last month.
The blast wrecked through the palace, one of Beirut’s most spectacular properties that took 20 years to rebuild after Lebanon’s civil war, massively destroying the place and badly injuring her.
Born in Beirut in 1922 to the high-class Greek Orthodox Sursock family, Lady Cochrane dedicated her life to preserving Lebanon’s architectural treasure.
She advocated for the arts scene, building Beirut’s best-known art museum, the Sursock Museum, where she was the president and general manager from 1960 until 1966.
In 1960, she started the Association for Protecting Natural Sites and Old Buildings in Lebanon to defend the country’s cultural heritage and past.
The association campaigned to preserve many sites that we now have the chance to indulge in, including historic buildings, the National Museum, and cultural spots in Beirut and other cities.
Lady Cochrane had harsh criticism towards the state in regard to their obsession with destroying historic buildings in order to make way for the new. Her efforts in preserving historic Lebanese sites continued right up until her death.
“Beirut lives by the wind that comes from the sea,” she said in a 2008 interview with Monocle, criticizing the modern buildings in Downtown, including building skyscrapers that now act as a block to a beautiful sea view.
According to her, Lebanon that was once known as “The Paris of the Middle East” has fallen into a deteriorating environment of political chaos.
“We are a country that has no recollection. Unfortunately, those who have no recollection have no future,” she had said in that regard.
The unstable situation in the country deeply concerned her, as she once said Lebanon would soon be “left with the bottom of the barrel.”
Chris Rampling, Great Britain’s Ambassador to Lebanon, expressed admiration for her life on Tuesday, describing her as the queen of Beirut.
“We’re deeply saddened by the passing of Lady Yvonne Sursock Cochrane, who campaigned tirelessly for the preservation of Lebanon’s architectural heritage throughout her life,” the museum said in a statement published on Instagram.
Lady Cochrane left a void with her passing. However, she also left behind a remarkable legacy that continues today with the mobilization of numerous associations under the Beirut Heritage Initiative currently endeavoring to save Beirut cultural pride; its heritage.