Jewish leaders in Ukraine have unveiled a new project to line a route to the site of an infamous Holocaust massacre with tombstones rescued from a disused Jewish cemetery in the capital, Kyiv.

The innovative heritage project will lead to Babi Yar, a ravine where Nazi soldiers shot and killed 33,771 Jews in two days in September 1941, one of the worst massacres of the Shoah.

Before the war, Ukraine had one of Europe’s largest Jewish populations, but the vast 26 hectare Lukianivka Jewish Cemetery in the city soon became a site of atrocities, and by the end of the war it had been destroyed, with graves transferred and tombstones demolished.

In recent months, however, volunteers and workers at the Babi Yar National Historical Memorial Preserve and the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre have uncovered more than 70 memorial plates and tombstones from the bottom of the Repyakhiv Yar.

These will now be displayed in a new lapidarium – a place where stone monuments and fragments of archaeological interest are exhibited – to create a “road of sorrow” from the cemetery’s former office to the Menorah memorial.

“Many outstanding Jewish individuals were buried here,” said Eliav Belotserkovsky, Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, speaking at the unveiling ceremony on Wednesday.

“They were a symbol of a prosperous culture that was almost destroyed as a result of the Nazi invasion. Therefore, the obeisance of memory through the establishment of tombstones from the Lukianivka Cemetery has a deep symbolism.”