It has been nearly four decades, but Luo Zhi still vividly remembers spending six chilly days in March 1969 on a tortuous journey from Beijing to her ancestors' home near the Dabie Mountains in Anhui province . It was all part of Mao Zedong's initiative to send millions of young people to impoverished rural areas 'to be re-educated'. Ms Luo, 59, refused to join her schoolmates going to such places as Inner Mongolia and Shanxi province and instead went on a personal exile in Jinzhai county in the hope of leaving behind the bitter memory of being purged and shunned at school because of her family background and liberal views. She spent four years in Jinzhai county, first toiling in the mountain terrain, then working as a barefoot doctor, one of thousands of grass-roots rural medics who often received little training. Later, she worked in a cement factory before being admitted to the Hefei University of Technology in September, 1973, as a 'worker, farmer and soldier turned student'. The students were recruited by mainland universities in the latter half of the Cultural Revolution based on their background rather than their academic merit. It was not until February 1977 that Ms Luo (shown below with a photo of her parents) was able to reunite with her mother in Beijing. She had been assigned a job working as an electrical engineer at the Shougang Group, also known as Capital Steel, the mainland's top steelmaker at the time and a business at the forefront of the country's reform drive. 'I felt like I was swallowed by the tidal wave of reform, but I was elated because I could put my management know-how to practical use,' she said. 'What I can remember now is that I worked overtime all the time and always felt I did not have enough time - I also was teaching at night school and learning Japanese.' The Shougang Group grew from a small factory producing 2 million tonnes a year three decades ago, to one producing more than 10 million tonnes in 2005, before its relocation ahead of the Olympic Games. Ms Luo saw her life improve enormously, with her salary rising from 37.50 yuan a month when she signed on to 1,800 yuan before she retired in 2003. Now living in a spacious three-bedroom flat in downtown Beijing, Ms Luo said she was nevertheless dismayed that the country as a whole had failed in the past 30 years to reflect on its past, particularly on the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s, in which more than 50 million were said to have been purged or starved to death, and the Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution had a lasting impact on members of Ms Luo's generation, who have lived in the shadow of Chairman Mao for so long that they have learned to do only what the party tells them to do. Ms Luo said many from her generation had developed a twisted view of an intimate relationship; they were taught to believe that having a relationship or getting married was a show of weakness because only a loser needed someone to look after them. She said she was particularly preoccupied with work and study when the reform process began. 'Who was in the mood for a relationship then?' said Ms Luo, who did not get married until she was 33 and then only because of the enormous pressure from peers and family. She said her relationship with her husband had only worked out in recent years when they began to accept each other for who they were, not what they wanted each other to be.