In 2362, the Bajoran Resistance bombed Tozhat, killing Rugal's mother. Rugal was believed killed, although Skrain Dukat had actually had a female officer remove Rugal prior to the attack and place him in a Bajoran orphanage. Dukat planned to later reveal that Rugal was alive, and discredit Pa'Dar for "abandoning" Rugal and "allowing" him to be raised by Bajorans. With family being one of the most important aspects of Cardassian society, the revelations would have destroyed Pa'Dar's career. (DS9 episode: "Cardassians")
Rugal was adopted by Proka Migdal and Proka Etra. In 2370, Rugal and Proka came to Deep Space 9, where Rugal attacked Elim Garak. This set off an intervention by Commander Benjamin Sisko and an investigation into Rugal's disappearance by Garak and Dr. Julian Bashir, which revealed Dukat's involvement in Rugal's disappearance. After long and difficult deliberations, Sisko ruled that Rugal should be released to the custody of his father. (DS9 episode: "Cardassians")
On Cardassia, Rugal failed to integrate. His father lived in Coranum Sector, as a member of the aristocracy, with Rugal's paternal grandmother, Geleth Pa'Dar. His grandmother was especially vicious and added to Rugal's sense of displacement. Encountering an environment where the State was everything and to speak out something unapproved brought swiftly the attention of the Obsidian Order, Rugal hoped to return to Bajor. He encountered some respite in a girl, Penelya Khevet, a niece of the wealthy Khevet family, who owned farms on Ithic. Pen's parents were murdered by the Maquis on Ithic, and the Khevet patriarch, Mikor, found in Pen an ideal future manager of his Ithic holdings. Like many things on Cardassia, Rugal objected to this. As he fell for her, he never realised she could not turn down her uncle's offer of going to Ithic. Even so, Rugal's his dream was always to return to Bajor, even after his adopted parents passed away.
Rugal rejected the privileged education his father could give him, and instead trained to be a nurse in the Free hospital in Torr Sector. He, with others, gave medicine and food to the homeless in Torr at night. Rugal also discovered his father was involved in the Detapa Council's dissident movement, led by Meya Rejal. However, he correctly identified that the dissidents merely wanted to replace the military and state police's hold on power with their own. He was attracted to the powerful rhetoric and trans formative ideas of Natima Lang's The Ending of "The Never-Ending Sacrifice", but Lang was forced to flee Cardassia before he could meet her. When Rejal seized power after the fall of the Obsidian Order, he was not disappointed in his prediction of how conservative her government would be. During the Klingon invasion of 2372 his father was evacuated to Deep Space 9: during this period his grandmother Geleth passed away, but before doing so she told Rugal that his father was, in fact, a bastard. Geleth had committed revenge for her family on the Pa'Dar family by marrying and cheating upon her husband. The Klingon invasion did not reach Cardassia Prime itself, and so Kotan returned. Together with Penelya they spread Geleth's ashes in the dry desert region she came from. Soon after, he and Penelya met Tora Ziyal, the daughter of Skrain Dukat, whom they would befriend. However, Dukat's fall from political disgrace robbed them of further friendship too.
Rugal stayed at the Torr hospital, and live with friends in Torr. He rejected going to Ithic with Penelya, ending their relationship. However, in 2373 he was coerced into military service by Skrain Dukat, then leader of Cardassia, and subsequently spent most of the war as a glinn on Ogyas III. For his service on Ogyas, Rugal was awarded a medal. When the war ended he deserted rather than being captured by the Romulans.It took him several months to get from Ogyas to Ithic, where his girlfriend Penelya Khevet lived before the war. He did not find Pen at her farm, but instead found a traumatized human girl, Hulya Kiliç. The young child witnessed human survivors murder her mother, and found in Rugal a person she could trust, unlike other humans. Eventually some other Cardassian survivors wandered their way, though none were Pen. He thus realised she was dead. More so, Rugal realized that, in order to continue protecting Hulya, he would need to obtain some rights to her in the face of opposition from local human survivors.
Therefore, in 2378, Rugal applied to become a Federation citizen. The official charged with ruling on Rugal's application decided that Captain Sisko's earlier decision to return Rugal to his father was not in keeping with Bajoran law, and overturned Sisko's decision. Rugal once again became the adopted son of Proka Migdal and Etra, and as Bajor was a Federation member world, he was a Federation citizen by extension. Rugal was the first Cardassian to become a Federation citizen.