Does that "frozen wasteland" where you're from happen to be in Manitoba, maybe around "The Peg" (Winnipeg)?
No, right next door in Saskatchewan.
The story I was told was that the Russian government recruited German farmers to colonize and develop the Ukraine with the promise that they'd be left alone and not treated like Russian serfs (who weren't freed until 1861).
That's how my father told it too. On top of that , my ancestors were Mennonites (pacifists) and the Russians already had more military manpower than they needed. They got out before WWI so they missed most of the troubles.